OpEd: Should SVVSD Bring Back Asynchronous Friday?


Photo courtesy of Daisy Tiner

Students utilize study time. Featured: Hannah Kelley, Tessa Bantowsky, Charly Diekmann

COVID-19 altered the lives of millions of people when the pandemic began in early 2020. One of the things that was heavily impacted at the time was education systems, especially when the lockdown began and school was moved entirely online.

However, there was a positive addition to the school curriculum to come with it. Near the tail-end of quarantine, the St. Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD) introduced hybrid learning (half of the school week spent in person and half on video calls), and with that came ‘Asynchronous Friday’.

Asynchronous Fridays were days when both students and teachers could focus on their assignments and tasks from school on their own time. These were days when students were doing work from home, but no video classes were held either. During this time, staff often held ‘office hours’, where students could join in on a Webex call with them if they had any questions about assignments or needed to have a conversation with one of their teachers.

Asynchronous quite literally means to do something on your own schedule, which explains their baseline purpose when they were first added to the SVVSD schedule.

However, as schools reopened and quarantine regulations were lifted, schools shifted back to fully in-person instruction. Along with this change, Asynchronous Fridays were also removed from both students’ and teachers’ schedules.

But even now, over three years after lockdown (and online school with it) began, self guided work days like this are something that many still think would be helpful to them in a variety of ways.

“It would be a really beneficial thing to go back to having asynchronous days, or at least the option of it. There are many schools now that have [classes] less than five days a week that work very well,” said Ada Hart, a freshman at Silver Creek.

Reintroducing asynchronous work days to SVVSD can serve as an advantage for students and teachers alike by dedicating a day to flexibility that allows for more productivity for both parties while still giving them a chance to recharge.

According to Stephanie Drake, a teacher at Silver Creek High School, “It was also used as an intervention to support struggling students.”

Just like they did back in 2020 and 2021, having an asynchronous day every week can have a huge impact on students’ mental health and help combat the stress of the normal, five-day school weeks.

School can naturally be stressful; whether that stress comes from tests and heavy assignments, time consuming extracurriculars, or even issues in their personal lives, it can make schoolwork (or even the task of finding the motivation to do it) much more difficult to accomplish.

Sometimes having such rigorous daily schedules can get to be incredibly tiring, and all a person may need is a day to decompress and live at their own pace.

“I liked [Asynchronous Fridays] a lot, since they provided a much-needed break at the end of the week,” said Matthew Scogin, a freshman at Silver Creek High School.

Having a consistent break, even if it’s one day of at-home learning from the school week, can prevent burnout, reduce stress, and allow students to rest (whether that’s in the form of sleeping in or just taking the day easier than they would at school). One day of reprieve from the busyness of the average school day can also largely benefit productivity and motivation.

An edweek.org article, written by Stephen Sawchuck in October of 2021, discusses a study that shows the benefits and possible drawbacks of four day school weeks. One of these benefits was the amount of sleep students were getting during four-day school weeks.

“It did seem to change some sleep patterns, with four-day elementary students reporting that they got more sleep and four-day secondary students saying that they felt much less tired than their counterparts in five-day systems,” Sawchuck said.

Adequate amounts of sleep alone can improve someone’s mental health a lot, whether that’s allowing you to better process emotions or, according to the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, “maintaining cognitive skills”. This can make it a lot easier to focus on tasks like schoolwork and much more manageable.

“…Most students would agree that it was a very good time to complete work. For me, they were always extremely productive and weren’t as exhausting for me as being at school,” said Hart.

Much like some study-hall periods, this time can be used to work on any assignments they may be behind on or haven’t gotten a chance to make real progress on. During lockdown, work was occasionally given out for Asynchronous days, but it was never anything too severe.

“…It was a healthy amount of work for current students…It also gives students one extra day to catch up on work from the previous week,” said Tracker Rose Legg, a Silver Creek sophomore.

Not only can asynchronous days be used as catch-up days for students, they can serve the same purpose for teachers. Having an at home, self-paced day can give teachers the opportunity to tackle tasks like grading without cutting into their own weekends like grading so often can.

“As someone whose mother works for admin and a student myself, we both agree that these asynchronous Fridays were excellent catch-up days on grading, meetings, studying, and work as a whole,” said Legg.

Having asynchronous days could even fix scheduling issues that seem to regularly garner complaints from students and staff alike, one of which being the imbalance of ‘A-Days’ and ‘B-Days’.

The way the current SVVSD system is set up, school days alternate between one or the other. But because there are five days in an average school week, there is almost always an uneven amount of ‘A-Days’ or ‘B-Days’, usually a 3:2 ratio. Having a day dedicated to neither would considerably even this out, and while this particular change wouldn’t massively affect classes, it would make scheduling more convenient.

All in all, reintroducing Asynchronous Fridays back to the SVVSD schedule would have incredible impacts on the mental health and general productivity of it’s students and, by easing up schedules making time-consuming tasks like grading more manageable within the school day, lift weight off of the shoulders of teachers.