Sean O'Neil, a Grade 12 student at Sandwich Secondary School who launched a petition calling for the pandemic-influenced high school schedule to revert to something closer to pre-pandemic, is seen Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. (Ricardo Veneza/CTV Windsor)

A Windsor high school student has started a petition calling for change to the back-to-school schedule put in place to help limit the spread of COVID-19 at the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB).

On Monday, Sean O’Neil posted the petition on Change.org which calls the current schedule “counterproductive” and pushes for a revised schedule to be put into place by Feb. 2021.

“The frustration for me is really the lack of time to be learning and the limited social aspect of it,” said O’Neil in an interview with CTV News.

O’Neil is a Grade 12 student at Sandwich Secondary School.

He says many of his peers are stressed working to keep up with a condensed curriculum. A comment left on the petition page alludes to that workload.

“Student can’t learn five months of work in two,” said Vanessa Gaudet.

The petition calls for a series of changes including two 150-minute classes every weekday, the removal of student cohorts and the reinstatement of extracurricular activities.

“There’s no group work, you don’t get to learn to be a team or anything,” said O’Neil.

The GECDSB plan released at the end of August split the semesters to create four quadmesters for the school year. The plan lays out 300-minute classes with students working on two courses for at least 44 days followed by an exam.

The adapted in-school model was offered in addition to a remote learning model for those students uncomfortable with the increased risk of in-person learning.

The recent deadline for Request to Change Form submissions saw 656 secondary school students in the public system opt to move to virtual learning with just 317 deciding to return to in-person learning.

O’Neil’s petition page describes the school environment as one “where students have difficulty learning and are at risk of developing poor mental health” and that is what he feels most needs to be addressed.

“More balance between the safety, mental health and education,” said O’Neil. “Right now, we’re leaning a lot towards safety and I think right now in Windsor we’re in a much better place than we were a few months ago.”

O’Neil adds a schedule that is more responsive to the public health risk COVID-19 poses in Windsor-Essex should be adopted.

“I think it’s time to start moving forward,” said O’Neil. “I’d like a lot more transparency from the [GECDSB] and the Ministry of Education towards, ‘What are the boxes we have to check?’ in order to get back to some sense of normal.”

O’Neil’s petition also looks to return other high school activities such as graduate photos while academic and athletic awards are proposed to return in virtual form.