Students, parents petition LBUSD to reduce screen time during distance learning

A group of Long Beach Unified students and parents are calling on the district to shorten its school days in an effort to reduce screen time.

LBUSD high school student Jason Danese started a petition two weeks ago asking the district to maintain the shorter minimum-day schedule used for the first two weeks of instruction at the start of this month. The petition has gained more than 22,000 signatures since it was posted.

“90 minute classes are way too long and ridiculous,” said Danese’s petition. “No one can pay attention and its causing major eye strain looking at a screen for six hours a day plus homework and other activities. Kids also don’t have a proper learning environment meaning that focusing for 90 minutes isn’t even possible for some.”

The issue has clearly been on parents’ minds, too. Several parents spoke or wrote in to the LBUSD Board of Education meeting last weekend to request less screen time for their students. On the Parents for Teachers LBUSD Facebook group, there are dozens of posts about wanting to reduce eye strain from computer screens.

Despite the petition, LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou said the district isn’t planning on shortening the school day, and pointed out that just because students are on a full-day schedule doesn’t mean they’re in front of a computer for the whole day. He said the district expectation is about two-and-a-half hours of direct instruction daily in the earlier grades and about four hours in high school.

“The student day includes a mix of synchronous, or group, instruction, and asynchronous instruction where students work as individuals or as small groups but still have access to the teacher,” Eftychiou said.

There are a number of considerations for utilizing a full-day schedule, including meeting state minutes requirements. Eftychiou said the district’s commitment to the schedule has as much to do with trying to make sure kids aren’t falling behind.

“We’ve focused more on trying to replicate some of the structure of a traditional pre-COVID school day, with adjustments,” he said. “Part of the challenge is that students did not have a traditional schedule for six months, so they’re out of practice.  But eventually we’ll return to a traditional in-person school day, and when that happens, we’d like to our students to have a good measure of academic stamina, which they’ll need as they move on in life.”

The district has said school will stay online until at least Jan. 28.

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