By Rachel Heller
In response to the shift from academic to social use of Pride Period, Gina Davenport, principal of Arundel High School, has established a new schedule for the 2017-2018 school year, prompting both praise and disapproval. The vast majority of students have been on the opposition, expressing their frustrations towards the shorter Pride Period interval amongst themselves, on social media, and in an online petition.
Previously, Pride Period stood as two 30-minute intervals between second and third period. Teachers’ classrooms were open depending on their schedules, the cafeteria was open for students to purchase and eat lunch, and the library was open for students to finish schoolwork.
Pride Period’s design was a 2015 alteration of “Wildcat Hour,” first implemented in 2008. In the past, Arundel has prided itself on this creation, as it has later been adopted and modified by several schools across Anne Arundel County, including South River High School.
The new schedule has modified Pride Period to one 30-minute interval between first and second period. At the beginning, middle, and end of third period is A Lunch, B Lunch, and C Lunch, respectively. The lunch that students attend depends on the subject of their third period. Students are expected to utilize Pride Period for review, remediation, redo, or club participation, and A/B/C Lunch for eating. During Pride, all teachers are open due to the elimination of such duties as hallway duty, the cafeteria serves as a quiet study space, and the library maintains its status as a place for students to work on any schoolwork.
The schedule was crafted by a committee of teachers known as The Safe and Orderly Committee, along with administrators, assistant principals, and principal Gina Davenport.
“[We] sat down and created this proposal early last year, probably February,” said Davenport. “And then we talked about it, and we put it out to the faculty to kind of vet it to see how everybody was understanding the changes.”
The original purpose of Pride Period was to support students academically and help them become involved in the school through access to teachers and clubs. Davenport noted that over the last couple of years, this purpose hasn’t been maintained, as more students utilized the time for social means.
“We noticed that students were getting the impression that the hour lunch was just that–an hour lunch,” she said. “ Fewer and fewer students were really taking advantage of it as an academic intervention, which was the way that it was intended. We decided that in order to make it a more clear distinction, so that students wouldn’t confuse the purpose of the time, we decided to change up the schedule.”
“Even when students were voicing their concerns in an online petition, they were saying things like we need the break, we need the time with our friends, that kind of thing.”
The petition in question was uploaded to change.org by Arundel freshman Riana Best. Titled “Give AHS Students, Teachers, and Staff their Wildcat HOUR Back,” the appeal states that the new schedule “has caused many students to choose between clubs they have done in previous years because they can only go to one a day. Also they can only visit one teacher a day, so if a student is absent one day it will take them four days to visit each class they missed. And it is very difficult to make up an hour long test in 30 minutes.”
The document frequently references students wandering in the halls during Pride Period as a factor that led to the schedule change, stating “The actions of a few wandering students should not result in the punishment of the whole student body.”
While the petition currently has 1,100 signatures out of its 1,500 goal, Best stated that she didn’t intend for it to become so large-scale.
“I was complaining about the new schedule with some of my friends and I just made the petition,” she said. “I didn’t have any strategy involved in it, I just wanted to see how many other students agreed with me.”
“I believe that there are better ways to handle irresponsible students during Pride,” said Best. “There could be a system where students sign in to classes like they do to get into the media center during Pride. Also, students found to be wandering could have different interventions, as found in the student handbook, for skipping class.”
Another alteration to the school schedule occurred on September 13. Sticking to the regular schedule, from the first day of school to September 8, students were required to attend their CATS class in the place of Pride Period for advisory lessons. CATS ended and Pride Period began on September 11. Two days later, Ms. Davenport announced that for an unspecified time period, Pride Period would once again revert to CATS class. This interval ended on September 25.
“I got a little excited about trying the new Pride Period out,” said Davenport. “After the first week of school, you don’t have a lot of assignments that you’re making up, nobody’s had a test yet, there wasn’t really a need to go back to classrooms. What I saw was kids were just kind of hanging out during that half hour. That made me nervous because we wanted to make it different, we wanted to make it an academic time.”
“I wanted to kind of stop that, reset, reboot if you will, and give everybody a chance to get the idea of ‘this is gonna be an academic time and I’ve got to make good choices.’”
Arundel senior Lauren Hoorens is one of the many students who opposed this shift from Pride Period to CATS.
“I think CATS was necessary for the first couple of days, especially for the freshmen to orientate themselves because it might be sort of intimidating to find a location at first,” said Hoorens. “But I think after the first couple of days it’s no longer necessary.”
Hoorens holds the same view on the new 30-minute Pride Period schedule.
“I definitely liked the hour that we had last year a lot more. I thought it was working fine,” she said. “ I did see some people wandering the halls, which I guess could be nonacademic, but I don’t think it was so extreme that we needed an entire change to the schedule.”
Contrasting from Hoorens, Arundel freshman Lauren Astudillo sees no problem with the new schedule. Coming from a middle school in Florida without any structure similar to Pride Period, Astudillo was completely unfamiliar with such a concept.
Astudillo said she believes the 30 minute time period allows enough time for her to finish any necessary work.
“Sometimes I feel like ‘where should I go for Pride?’ but that’s about it,” she said in reference to any problems she’s faced with the schedule.
The majority of Arundel educators and administrators agree that all of the schedule changes made this year were needed. Sheila Suppicich, Foundations of College Algebra and Precalculus teacher, is no exception.
Last year, Suppicich had both hallway and computer lab duty. “I think too many kids were coming into the computer labs just to hang out because they didn’t feel they had any place to go,” she said. According to her, the hallways were no better. “Way too many kids were just fooling around, wandering around.”
“I’m very happy with the new Pride schedule. I hope that kids will take better advantage of it than they did last year,” said Suppicich. “Do the kids like it? Probably not, but that might be selfish because they just wanted an hour lunch, an hour social time, and that’s not what we’re here for.”
Arundel assistant principal Stacey Cooper expressed similar feelings of approval for the schedule.
“Anybody that’s given some freedom without direct rules is gonna think twice sometimes about what they want to do, and some people, when they’re given a chance to do something or to procrastinate it, they choose to procrastinate it,” said Cooper. “So now we’re giving them less of a chance to procrastinate.”
Before answering if she’s seen any difference in students using Pride Period wisely, Cooper herds wandering students into the cafeteria’s quiet study space, including a girl exclaiming that she “didn’t even know it was pride period.”
“We’re still trying to get used to it,” Cooper said. “What I do know is that yesterday I had 50 to 60 kids in [the cafeteria] that came in and sat down and were all studying.”
Students have expressed concerns that there’s not enough time to attend all of their clubs, yet Cooper disagrees.
“If you plan, you’ll be able to get to just as many. We have as many clubs offered throughout the week as we had last year. Absolutely there’s more teachers open every Pride Period than there were any half last year, so it should be easier.” said Cooper.
While portions of the student body may oppose the new schedule, Cooper believes that for this year, it’s here to stay.
“I think for this year we’re gonna definitely keep it, and I think the students will get used to it once they get over the idea of ‘I don’t have an hour to walk around.’”