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Students Voice Concerns About Schedule and Vaping

clockStudent leaders had the opportunity to exchange thoughts on the use of the new learning spaces, vaping and the schedule change at a meeting with h members of the Scarsdale Board of Education, prior to the BOE meeting on Monday May 7. They engaged in frank discussion on changes at the school in the past year and collaborated on how to fix some ongoing issues. 

The students reported that the new learning commons has been a great addition to the high school. The learning commons has created a space where students can go during lunch or free periods to grab food, study, or do homework. Private side rooms, including the new iLab, allow teachers to bring their students to a more collaborative environment during class time. The board asked the students how they felt the learning commons has been utilized over the past few months. Junior and Vice President Amanda Glik had been looking forward to its opening and commented, “People use it everyday…it really represents the mature environment of collaboration.” The space has also been compared to something one would find at a college campus.

Another benefit of the learning commons recognized by the students is the alleviation of pressure on the library. They said that since the library used to be a place for students to go to eat lunch and hang out during free periods, the opening of the learning commons has drawn these students to a different venue. The students now recognize the library as a quiet place to study and get work done over a place to socialize.

The students also noted that the food service offered in the learning commons is being utilized to its full extent, especially during periods other than lunch. Since food is available in the morning and also after 5th period, when students have lunch, the learning commons has become a popular location for students to either eat breakfast in the morning or snack in the afternoon before a club meeting or sports practices. They also said that they look forward to indulging in the learning commons food since it provides more options than the cafeteria including a salad bar and a soft-serve ice cream machine, both which were immediate hits with students.

Another addition to the High School as a part of the STEAM initiative is the design lab. The design lab has not only houses design and fabrication classes but is also utilized by the robotics club. One student on the robotics club noted that the new design lab has been a major improvement over the previous physics classroom that the club used for meetings. The modular design of the lab allows for better group work and participation in the club. Since it is easier to move around the tables, the process of building robots has become more fluid. For the club and many others, the design lab has been a useful and productive space.

A member of the ski team reported that sports teams, specifically the ski team, have definitely reaped the rewards of the new fitness center. Before the its opening, the ski team would participate in their dynamic warm ups in the commons, not a gym space said one of the student. Now there is a proper space for them to do their warm ups, for which they are very thankful.

The board also asked the students to comment on the ongoing vaping issue at the high school, how it made them feel and possible solutions to the problem. From the student perspective, this issue is not only damaging to the health of students but has also made the high school somewhat of an uncomfortable environment. The source of the problem is students Juuling or vaping in the school bathrooms. One student recalls trying to go to the bathroom during homeroom. He said he had to go to three or four bathrooms before he found one that did not have people Juuling inside. The group concoluded that this issue seems to be much more prevalent in the male bathrooms than the female bathrooms.

The group collaborated on how to deal with this epidemic. “We don't want it to take the 20 or 30 years it took for cigarettes to become uncool,” said Glik. They highlighted that since this trend has occurred so suddenly and rapidly, there has not been much education on the issue. The point was brought up that sophomores enrolled in the second semester health class have only recently discussed the issue, while sophomores who took the first semester health class barely touched upon it. They realized that a contributing reason that Juuling is so popular is because of the lack of information and education students have received, leaving many unaware of the health consequences. One student suggested an assembly or a workshop to educate the entire student body on the health effects of Juuling.

In terms of prevention, the students brainstormed ideas on how Juuling in school can be minimized. Increased staff in the bathrooms or random bathroom during popular hours such as homeroom or lunch was one suggestion. However, the issue is more deep rooted. “This is a health crisis more than a disciplinary one,” stated Principal Bonamo. One member asked, “How do we help them get unaddicted?” The board is now tasked with addressing nicotine addiction. 

Also on the agenda was a discussion of how the new school day schedule has impacted the students. This year, as a result of collective bargaining with teachers, each class period was extended by two minutes, to a total of fifteen minutes a day. In addition, homeroom only occurs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, instead of everyday.

One student who is an athlete noted that this change has been a tremendous struggle, especially for teams who take busses to their practices and games. She explained how the ten-minute delay creates a time crunch for students to get from their class to the locker room to get ready for their sport, and then onto the bus. In some cases, students have been left at the high school and missed out on practices and games because there was not sufficient time for them to get ready.

Another point made by the students is that students lives outside of school haven't changed which makes the new schedule even more inconvenient . They explained how students still have their everyday, after school commitments that have not been adjusted to account for this missing ten minutes.

The students also said they feel deprived of their homeroom, ten minutes they used to relax, grab food, and socialize. Now, they said, students may have five classes in a row with no break or no way to eat. Also a major concern of the students is the loss of meeting time for some student organizations, like student government and yearbook, that meet during homeroom. Because homeroom is only twice a week, the schedule changes everyday and students are confused about class times.

One student proposed having a universal free time everyday instead of the extra two minutes added to each period. It was explained that for those with jam-packed schedules or no free periods in common with their teachers, this time would be a great way to meet with teachers. Glik added that Scarsdale High School prides itself on its tutorial system, therefore, having a universal free period everyday would reinforce this value, over the two minutes each period where the teacher is standing in front of the classroom rather than meeting with students one-on-one.

One board member asked if giving up the universal Friday seventh period free would be a fair compromise. Some students felt that this was a time they look forward to all week and many clubs and sports teams schedule meetings and games during this time. However, others saw it as a way to compromise, given that they have all weekend to do homework or hang out with friends and do not think that an hour after school necessitates free time.

It wasn’t clear at the end of the meeting whether any change to the schedule would be made. But the students seemed pleased to at least be given the chance to offer their suggestions.

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