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Shelby County Schools parent launches online petition, asks for shorter virtual school day

Nearly 20,000 support it; parent said hours of screen time is impacting son's attention span.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — "It was definitely written from my heart and genuinely." 

Shelby County Schools parent Arionna Onley is talking about an online petition she launched last week, asking the district shorten the virtual school day, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. - to 8:00 a.m. to noon.

As of Wednesday afternoon, it drew nearly 20,000 signatures and dozens of supportive messages.

"If I had a wish, it would just be to, you know, have a conversation and look at other options for our younger students or even our older students that struggle," Onley said.

The mother said her first-grade son Billy is challenged with his attention span, from hours of screen time and his classmates separated in cyberspace.

"He's a bit anxious with some things he's uncomfortable with," Onley said. "I just want us to understand that nothing is the same and let's really look at it of where we are and how we can support students in the best way."

Baptist Memorial Hospital Dr. Steve Threlkeld recommends parents of all-virtual learners focus more on book reading and outside, to offset so much time linked to electronics.

"It takes a little pressure on parents to be imaginative to invent ways to keep their kids imaginative," Dr. Threlkeld said.

SCS sent this statement to Local 24 News Wednesday afternoon: "Shelby County Schools is committed to providing high quality instruction to all students. Even in a virtual setting, we must ensure the Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE) requirements are met. The daily virtual learning schedule is aligned with the State’s required allotment of time for each content area, elective, and intervention period. Independent work and physical activity is also built into each day. We do not expect students to work on-screen for 6.5 hours continuously each day. Schools have customized their schedules to maximize student engagement while also recognizing our students and families are adjusting to the virtual learning environment. As always, we value family input and continue to ask for grace and patience as we navigate through this new normal together. 

More information about virtual learning can be found in our FAQs and Digital Learning Guide parent resource."

As a parent of a 6 yr old 1st grader, the virtual school semester is going to be a known challenge. There's added stress as a parent, and I'm sure from educators to keep children motivated for 7hrs virtually. Throughout that 7hr day the children are offered a 30min lunch, and 5-10min brain breaks.

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