AAPS Students Create Petition to Reform Online School

Three Ann Arbor high school students have started a virtual petition and a Google Form in order to draw attention to the concerns and complaints towards online learning from hundreds of students across the district. 

“All my friends were telling me how awful their experiences with online school were,” said Skyline senior Nate Frison. “I felt the same way, I was genuinely crying over calculus homework when I decided to post about (the form).” Frison is one of the creators of the “Online School Improvement” form, a Google Form created to gather statistical information on students’ attitudes towards online learning. 

“We hoped to, and did, gather enough data to strongly suggest a switch to an alternate structure to online school, one that would create a more manageable environment for everyone,” said Pioneer junior Porter Malcolm, who created the school improvement form with Frison. “We found that both students and teachers feel overwhelmed by the virtual environment, students especially. The median mental health rating among those who responded to our form was four out of ten, and most students reported sitting behind their computer screens for ten hours or more per day.”

Since its creation, the form has received over 600 responses, varying from across all four Ann Arbor public high schools, and even some middle school students. “These are great numbers and we are so glad that many people stand with us in our push for change.” said Frison.

In response to these concerns, Pioneer senior Alex Makovik started a virtual petition on change.org in order to draw attention to the need for change of online school, and has received wide support from the student body. Little over a week after the form’s creation, it already amassed over 1,200 signatures from students sharing complaints about this year’s online learning system. In addition, it was able to break above 1,000 supporters in its first 20 hours of going live. 

“Students, teachers, and parents alike are negatively impacted by the poor design of the online school system that is currently in place,” stated the petition. “The purpose of this petition is to get the attention of the AAPS Board of Education as well as the Superintendent and make the concerns and denunciation of our community known.” 

Individual students have left their own comments in regards to the virtual learning situation on the petition web page. Many share the sentiment that online school has caused them a deterioration in mental health, and the workload received from their courses has been overbearing. “I am so emotionally and physically drained because of online school. I am so stressed. It’s hard to eat, sleep, and I am NOT happy or even close to being okay. I just need a break. Wednesday’s work is too much,” stated one comment. 

Others point out that they have been able to receive little guidance from their teachers. “I’m struggling staying afloat during this. It creates so much stress when (as a person who is easily distracted) my work piles up and up and up and I have NO organization or guidance from nearly all my teachers (minus one). I just want to get (SAFELY) back to school,” said another comment.

With the widespread support garnered by the form and virtual petition, the three students set out to write an email, addressed to the school board, in order to enact change in the virtual environment. “We wanted as much input as we could get from the form and petition so that we could accurately address issues that are prevalent with the kids in this district! The point of the email is to hopefully take away late penalties, change the way we use Schoology or switch to a simpler platform, and get rid of extra work like Wednesday work,” said Frison. 

“When it comes to petitions, the goal is simply fanning the flame and keeping the momentum going long enough to reach your goals,” stated Makovik. “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to cause some amount of change in our present schooling system.” Malcolm shares the same viewpoint. “Schools are looking to enact major change soon, during the third quarter, and I’ll work with them to make that a reality as soon as possible. Our student voices deserve to be heard, now more than ever.”

The students are planning to meet with administration members in the next few weeks. Further details and updates will be provided at that time.

Update 11/23:

The students’ efforts have proven to be effective. After meeting with various AAPS administration members, revisions have been made to online schooling in order to create a more manageable learning environment for all students. These include:

  • Requiring teachers to assign work, on Wednesday, only previously taught during class, so no new material is to be assigned.
  • Making clubs more public.
  • Taking all work off weekends, so students up to date on their coursework should be entirely homework free.