A Windham High School parent delivered a public complaint on Dec. 18 about the homework level for students, a problem which Principal Tom Murphy is already looking at with his leadership team.
Andrea Alexander told the school board that her daughter, who she referred to as a motivated and dedicated student, is pulling all-nighters along with many of her classmates.
"It is unbelievable," Alexander said, saying that the stress level is unbearable in Windham homes with high school students.
Murphy reported that a couple of parents have reached out to him specifically, and that the comments are not new to him.
"(Our) leadership team has begun to craft a spreadsheet of class expectations," he said.
According to Murphy, the school is looking at specific grade levels and determining what a student's workload would actually look like for a particular level of education, such as honors level courses.
He said the leadership team is also trying to determine what an appropriate amount of time to spend on homework should be for each particular class, using the example of Honors chemistry.
Murphy explained that he taught an advanced placement (AP) course for 15 years.
"My expectation was a student should be doing one hour worth of work per night in that class," he said. "If I have a student that is taking three hours, I might have a conversation – is this the appropriate challenge for you?"
Murphy said there was also discussion on putting the homework times in the program of studies for each course.
School Board member Michelle Farrell said that her daughter is in a similar boat, referencing projects that are due after she gets back from winter break although the idea is to give a week for the students to relax.
Fellow board member Jerome Rekart asked Murphy to network with colleagues at other high schools about homework loads.
Alexander stressed the need for parent input on homework decisions, suggesting a possible town meeting on the subject.
According to Superintendent Dr. Henry LaBranche, the school district has a homework policy in place.
"Have they evolved to something else?," he asked, "I can't sit here and tell you at this point in time that they have."
He noted that a comparitive analysis is difficult due to Windham High's short history, but added that the district would be more than happy to investigate the situation to help define the magnitude of the problem.
Regarding the issue, it will be brought back as an agenda item and Murphy will return to the board after winter break.