Study hall numbers climb

Laura Harper and Maggie Hines

About 550 high school students have at least one study hall this year, up from an average of about 400 — even though many students had not asked for one.
Administration said the issue arose because of staff reductions and scheduling conflicts. But some of the affected students are unhappy, saying the situation has cost them a chance to explore possible future careers.
Facing a financial crunch last year, the district reduced teaching staff, and that has affected the number of sections offered for some electives, Principal Dr. Walter Graves said.
“We needed to be fiscally responsible in not spending more money than we have,” Graves said. “The budget is balanced this year, but it’s been a very tough road.”
Graves said another issue that arose is that some students chose electives that did not garner enough interest to be offered.
“We normally need about 15 students for a class to run,” Graves said.
This year that guideline was strictly followed, he said.

Also this year, the first section of an elective was fully filled before another section of that same elective was opened up, he said. Sometimes one section of an elective would fully fill, but there would not be enough students requesting the class that would have justified opening a second section.
A final issue was one that is seen each year: Some students’ elective choices did not fit into openings in their schedules, based on when their chosen core-area classes were being offered.
Administrators did look at students’ back-up choices for electives, Graves said. But for some students, none of those panned out.
“This year, when students signed up for electives that didn’t run, they (were) scheduled into study halls,” Graves said.
Counselor Gerry Hall acknowledged that it has been a tough year with scheduling.
“We try to give every student what they want, but it doesn’t always work out,” Hall said.
While some students chose a study hall, or chose a science class that has a lab one or two days and study halls the rest of the week, other students wanted electives.
Seniors are particularly affected, since they will not have a chance to try to take those electives again next year. Senior Josh Dillinger wanted to take a financial algebra class but ended up in study hall.
“I love study halls because they give me an opportunity to relax, but I have so many study halls I don’t need,” said Dillinger. “I would rather have a class that could help influence me in my decisions on what I’m going to do when I get to college.”
Senior Jaz Wicks is an aspiring independent photographer who signed up for a business class to better prepare her for her career. Instead, she is in two study halls this year, since she already had a science lab study hall.
“I feel like it would have benefited me in college because I would have been exposed to the material before,” Wicks said. “Now, I have no previous knowledge about the concepts.”
Senior Dillon Backo was forced into a study hall after signing up for wood crafts, since there were not enough sections of the class offered.
“I am going into HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] and the class would have helped me in my career,” Backhoe said. “I don’t necessarily mind the study hall. I just wish I could have had the class.”