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From 'kind of sucks' to easier focus: Whitehorse students have mixed feelings about half-day classes

After a month of half-day classes, Whitehorse high school students have mixed feelings about the new pandemic schedule — with some teens stressed out, while others are loving part-time class.

Department of Education will issue survey in November, says deputy minister

Grade 10 to 12 students have 2 classes per day, and operate on a 2-day schedule. Students who have class in the morning this semester will do afternoon classes next semester. (Laura Howells/CBC)

After a month of half-day classes, Whitehorse high school students have mixed feelings about the new pandemic schedule — with some teens stressed out, while others love part-time class.

"It's fun but it kind of sucks," said Mackenzie Keefer, a Grade 10 student at F.H. Collins Secondary School. She said it's hard when you can't ask a teacher for help, or bounce ideas with other students.

"You're missing out on having the support system."

Waiting for the bus to go home at lunchtime, Grade 11 student Lisa Freeman said she likes having only two classes per day.

"I find I do work better at home because I can work on my own pace and it's not in a noisy classroom," said Freeman.

Grade 11 student Lisa Freeman is a fan of half-day classes. (Laura Howells/CBC)

As part of Yukon's pandemic school plan, most Whitehorse Grade 10 to 12 students attend in-person class half the day, either in the morning or afternoon. The rest of the day they do work at home, or in a supervised study hall.

Officials with the Department of Education say they opted for the half-day schedule to comply with the chief medical officer's safety guidelines — which recommend limited student mixing and physical distancing — while still offering regular classes.

Grade 10 student Chris Murrant says his sleep schedule and focus is better doing afternoon classes (he will do morning classes next semester).

"Whenever I wake up for a full day at 7 in the morning, I am not going to pay attention," said Murrant.

But his friend Devyn Rollins, says there are a lot of distractions at home.

Keefer said she tries to do homework in the afternoon, but often helps out around the house or watches TV.

Students Chris Murrant and Devyn Rollins have mixed feelings about half-day classes. (Laura Howells/CBC)

The half-day decision has received backlash from some parents, who say the department should prioritize getting all kids back to class full-time.

"I continue to be frustrated as a parent," said Tiffanie Tasane, who has a son in Grade 12. She says she's had little communication about what her son should be doing at home.

"I'm worried about boredom and what that can breed."

Aislynn Thompson-Elias, a Grade 11 student at Porter Creek Secondary School, told CBC's Yukon Morning that it's harder to get her questions answered via email. 

Grade 11 Easton Sauer says she's stressed by the workload and feels like classes are rushed as teachers try to cram everything in.

Vanier Catholic Secondary School Principal Ryan Sikkes has previously told CBC the schedule will help prepare students for university, which includes more independent learning. He said teachers typically give students a lot of time to work in class.

But Gabriel Hopkins, a Grade 12 student at Porter Creek Secondary School, says many students he knows are getting "super stressed out" by the amount of work they have to do at home. Hopkins' mother, Angela Drainville, runs a Facebook group for "Yukoners concerned about Grades 10 to 12," where parents have been voicing their concerns since summer. 

Busses pick up and drop off high school students at lunchtime. (Laura Howells/CBC)

Deputy Education Minister Nicole Morgan says the department will send out a survey asking about half-day classes in November.

The department says it will continue to monitor programming for the first semester and make necessary adjustments for second semester. 

Tasane says she's frustrated by a lack of communication about when students could be back full-time.

"It feels like the decision's been made, there's no looking at it again, deal with it."

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