Brittany Madigan: New tardy policy sweeps up students
October 21, 2011
"A new school year" isn't just a short phrase students in school use to explain the fact that summer vacation is nearing a close. Talk of the new school year could be the way a student expresses their excitement of being able to make new friends, it could be the considered thought of achieving new goals at school, or even the anticipation of the new trials and errors that are going to be made throughout the next nine months. As the last few weeks of summer vacation played out, students of Moffat County High School were soaking up the events and knowledge of the past few months and getting ready to put forth the effort for another year. Not only were students planning to have the most successful year they've had, but faculty at MCHS was as well, in ways students never would have thought. On the first day back, students at MCHS met new teachers, new friends, and a shiny new tardy policy.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definition of "sweep" is to remove from a surface with or as if with a broom or brush. At MCHS, if you hear someone use the term "sweep", they're solely mentioning the new addition to the tardy policy. The administration is sweeping up tardy students and sending them into a disciplinary room like easy housework.
At MCHS there are five minutes between each class, the passing period ending with a tardy bell. Students are expected to be in their classrooms by the time the bell rings, if not, the students are locked out of the classroom. Teachers at MCHS have been directed to lock the door after the bell has rung, students who are late to class have three options; attempt to secretly slip into class if any way possible, walk to room 101 themselves, or endure the walk of shame by being "swept" up by one of the three "brooms”, Principal Thom Schnellinger, Assistant Principal Travis Jensen, or Assistant Principal Jeff Simon.
Once all students are inside of the tardy room, they are then directed to write a brief statement as to why they were late to class and what they will do to avoid the same behavior next time. According to Schnellinger, the statements are making the biggest difference because students are being forced to think about how they will improve their behavior and its encouraging each student to be reflective. Schnellinger stated that the first twenty minutes of class are the most important and the staff doesn't want students who have made it to class on time to become disrupted by students coming in late. After the twenty minutes, students are escorted back to their classrooms by the “sweepers.”
After being in high school for the past four years, even I know that being tardy is an unfortunate part of being in high school, and sometimes students can't help but let it happen. Some students have to walk clear across the school campus and go up to the agricultural building, or need that quick bathroom break. There are also those few misfortunate students who have a class on the third floor and have no other choice but to walk to the first floor, grab the necessary books for other classes from their locker, and make their way back up to the third floor in five minutes, preferably less.
After seeing many of my peers frustrated at the beginning of the school year because of the addition, I’m sure the introduction of the new policy would have most likely gone over more smooth with students if the MCHS administration had eased into the new policy. I use the term “eased into” loosely, meaning administration shouldn’t have thrown so many new rules in one school year. Yes we had the week long trial of the new policy, but a heads up last year that there were going to be drastic changes could have been the least they could do. The school went from an uncomplicated policy, to one where students feel like they're dirt being swept into a dustpan. MCHS went from almost no punishment to maximum in three simple months, students are clearly going to become upset.
There are a number of different ways MCHS could have tried to fix the tardy policy before buckling down to something so disciplinary. I'm sure MCHS wouldn't have been the first school to experiment what works and doesn't work for students, if only they would have taken the time. For the distance some of us have to travel, and the size of our school, you would think the administration would give students a longer passing period. For the time allotted is not adequate for the congested stairways used to maneuver the three floors. If students were to have a warning bell, one minute before the tardy bell, it would justify the time better and students would know how long they'd have to get to class.
As Schnellinger pointed out, the first twenty minutes of class are the most important and crucial for learning, and now students are being punished for being a few minutes late to class. At least they're even showing up to class. As for some students, they are missing out on fast-paced and guided classes like science and math where a student needs to obtain as much information as possible. Sure, the student can catch up with other classmates and the teacher when they get to class, but the student is most likely not going to get as much out of the class that day as the other students.
Community members and parents have perceived the conception that if the tardy policy is going to stick, textbooks should be provided for each class so students don't have to carry around seven hours worth of books to prevent themselves from being tardy. Although the new policy has made students uneasy, it's proved a drastic contrast since last year's documentation of tardies. According to Schnellinger, tardies that have been documented have been decreased by at least sixty percent from last year and even though the new policy has been effective in reducing the number of tardies, it has caused a dire cost to students who need as much educational time they can get.
Even if the new tardy policy has reduced the number of tardies by more than half, every party should have been included in the decision to fix MCHS's tardy problem, including teachers, parents, and especially the students.