Independence’s workload is too loaded


A nagging, dull ache forms behind the tired eyes of an Independence student. Gradually, it spreads to the temples, slinks back across the entire head and crawls down the spine, striking the neck along the way. Another full day of work staring blankly at a computer screen has left the student with strained eyes, a sore body and completely mentally drained. 

Facing a tough year already due to COVID-19 and the introduction of distance learning, Independence students have been slammed by an overwhelming amount of work since the start of the new school year on Sept. 8. The Prowl polled 206 Independence students on whether they felt the workload this year to be higher than previous years; the grade levels were unaccounted for. Out of those students, 94% indicated that they felt as though they were receiving more work this year. This has left students gasping for air in an already flooding environment.

A possible cause of the newly rigorous workload is the implementation of a new Loudoun County Public Schools policy. On June 9, the Loudoun County School Board adopted Policy 5030-A-REG, K-12 Assessment and Grading Common Guidelines, which was put into effect during the 2020-21 school year. A key change stipulates that each summative assignment must be preceded by a formative assignment and the total major summative grades must represent 75% of the final grade for the quarter.

With a shortened quarter due to the delay of the school year from COVID-19, teachers struggled to meet these new guidelines. Many were forced to increase the workload of students in order to have an adequate amount of summative grades for the quarter.

The work volume has gnawed at students’ already dwindling free time. “I don’t feel like I have enough time in the day to do everything I want to,” said sophomore Aanya Wadhwani. Results from an additional poll by The Prowl of 190 students revealed that 43.2% of students spend a total of three to four hours on homework each night; 27.9% spend one to two hours, 27.4% students spend over four hours and only 1.6% spend less than one hour. 

According to the National Education Association, a recommended amount of homework for students is 10 minutes per grade per night. For example, 90 minutes per night for ninth graders, 100 minutes for 10th graders and so on. This guideline suggests that the longest time spent on homework per night should be two hours and expected only from seniors. Approximately 70% of the polled students, from various grades, expressed that they’ve regularly exceeded this limit by one to two plus hours thus far in the school year. 

Long hours spent staring at a computer screen not only eliminate students’ free time, but can be harmful to health. In the article, “What staring at a screen all day does to your brain and body, Business Insider suggests that over seven hours of screen time per day often leads to eye strain, blurred vision and even long term vision problems like near-sightedness. The article also posits that approximately 58% of people that work with computers all day develop something called Computer Vision Syndrome. This ailment can cause all of the above symptoms with the addition of headaches and neck and back pain. “I consistently have neck pain and migraines,” said senior Emmy Ungerleider, drawing attention to the discomfort experienced by students.

Arguably the most detrimental outcome from the increased workload this year has been the negative impact on students’ mental health. Junior Grace Gorham described the workload as, “Overwhelming and stressful.” The countless hours spent working have caused the levels of anxiety and stress to rise within students significantly, contributing to poor mental health and grim emotions. Amidst the global pandemic, stress is already running rampant, but the anxiety brought about by schoolwork has only burdened students to a greater extent. 

As teachers and administrators test the waters of distance learning and go through the same transformations as students, a disconnect has been created between what students believe to be a manageable workload, and the amount of work that has actually been assigned. 

It’s not all bad news though. Loudoun County Public Schools and Independence High School have already made strides to respond to the complaints of students. A modification to the block schedule, new regulations on asynchronous Mondays and meetings within staff have undergone to attempt to level out the heavy volume of work and relieve both physical and emotional strains. It is more important now than ever, in a technology focused world, for some time to be set aside to unplug. Independence looks to be heading in the right direction.