School services should not be mandatory

September 18, 2009 — by Nandini Ruparel and Kim Tsai

Having to do school service for a semester or two to fill in schedule gaps may not seem like a big issue, but students, particularly the juniors and seniors who are mostly able to drive, wonder why they aren’t allowed off campus instead.

In order to graduate, it is required that seniors take both government and economics, two separate semester classes. Many seniors choose to take one or the other during the summer at a community college. When seniors take the remaining class during the school year, they are left with an empty period for one of the semesters. In this case, most seniors would prefer to go home. According to school policy, however, they have to stay during that semester at school taking school services and become either a teacher’s assistant or office aide.

The main problem with the system of free periods arises when someone has a free period that is not the first or last class in the day. School services becomes required when any other period is empty. According to the administration, the problem is one of supervision. The school has to be in charge of the student during the day, and free periods would make it hard to keep track of the students. This could be solved with a waiver that parents and students can sign to prevent liability concerns.

Even if students are not allowed to go off campus during their free periods, at least having a study hall type class or allowing them to study in the library would be better than making them take school services. Other schools, such as Lynbrook, try to discourage students from having free periods, but make no effort to eliminate them. Students do not have to take school services but must remain on campus. This is a feasible plan that could be easily implemented at Saratoga High. Although school services is a benefit to teachers and the office, it is not helpful to the students. While helping these teachers, students lose valuable time for studying and homework.

There have been cases where a student has a fourth period free and is allowed to keep that with a signed note from a parent that says that they would be allowed to be unsupervised on Mondays; on both Wednesday and Friday, fourth period is the first class and therefore not subject to liability issues. It seems ridiculous that this is only possible for fourth period and not the other periods in someone’s schedule.

Another issue that many have with the current system is that school services no longer receives applied arts credits, because it does not relate directly to career. This may be a valid reason; however, it is a waste of time to take a class that does not receive any credit with colleges. Students should have an incentive to go for school services rather than being forced to take the class.

Having a free period during the day, whether it be for a semester or the whole year, can cause many problems with our current system. Students often take school services unwillingly. This should be remedied by either offering more options for semester classes or by changing the policy. If students have parental consent, they should be given the option of a free period.

Another alternative is creating a study hall, where students can stay at school under supervision and do homework or study in a quiet environment. This way, the administration should not have a legal issue and the students would not have to take something they didn’t sign up for. Without these options, students will remain frustrated with a policy that is ultimately unfair.

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