Free period change: benefits and potential compromises

Kayla Baltazar, News-Features/Opinion Editor

  When the survey was first sent out last year, at every turn there would be murmurs from the soon-to-be upperclassmen. A questionnaire, asking which period is preferable for a free period: 1st period or 8th period. 

  At first, the idea was absurd. Why were free periods being restricted to only the beginning of the day and the end of the day? Free periods have always been at any time, why change now?

  The whispers only grew louder when the schedules for this year came out. Some of confusion, some of annoyance. 

  ‘Why do I have a study hall sixth? I asked for a free period.’ Then students schedule an appointment with the counselors, and find out they can’t have their requested free period because they were only limited to first and eighth periods. 

  “This idea that free periods were going to be for juniors and seniors only 1st and 8th period was put into action last spring when the master schedule was being developed,” said George Kaider, school counselor. “It’s not just a Mundelein thing, many high schools have gone to this as well. So, when kids come in and they have a study hall, and they can’t move their classes around to give them that free period, or they have a singleton AP class that’s only offered 1st or 8th, we’re stuck.”

  Was limited free periods a good idea? While the school year has only just started, it’s clear that the students are reaping the benefits. With only having free periods at the beginning of school or the end, it allows those who have one the ability to come in late or leave early.

  “You’re either starting late or leaving early. That’s a good deal,” Kaider said.

  The prevention of free periods within the day has also had some benefits with attendance and sticking with a class. 

  “I think if you have more free periods throughout the day, it just makes it easier for any student to say ‘oh, I’m going to drop the class, I’ll take the free period fourth,’” said Guidance Department Chair Tom Buenik. “Now that you can’t do that, maybe kids are staying in their classes more.”

  Another issue with free periods that was noticed was the urge to skip classes. Having just one class between a free period and a lunch, beginning of the day, or end of the day, was an incentive to simply take a day off resulting in a lot of absences. 

  Kaider posed the hypothetical,“Think about this: if a kid has second hour free, and they’re just a little tired that day or whatever, a lot of kids will just skip first and come in third, and that’s the issue. Or, a kid leaves and has sixth lunch and seventh free, eighth class, and you go home, what makes you want to come back for that 8th period? In the course of a school year, that ends up becoming a lot of absences.”

  Of course, with any change raises some valid concerns and critiques. There were some unfortunate circumstances where students were unable to get a free period in their schedule, such as Senior Frederick Song. 

  “The [AP English Language] class that was seventh that I was trying to get into was full,” Song said. This resulted in him getting a study hall seventh period and having to take the English class eighth.

  For students like Song, there are many packed classes in their schedules. The workload is a lot, and having that free period was a nice time to tackle the work. Study halls were designed to help students have a time to complete their schoolwork, however Song notes it isn’t always beneficial.

  “[While] it is a study hall, there’s almost always a group of louder kids,” said Song. “I had a free period last year, eighth, and I was able to just go to the library which was a much better study environment for me to be productive.”

  With having a study hall, students have to go to their assigned classroom for attendance and to get a pass to go somewhere from their study hall period. 

  “I feel like the library already has the sign in system, so I feel like the fact that you need a pass to go there during study hall is [annoying],” Song said.

  A good compromise for this would be to allow students with study halls the opportunity to scan into an area where they can study, and not necessarily always have to be in the same classroom. The scan-in system can be a way to check attendance, whether it’s the library, the math lab, the CCRC or the literacy center, while also keeping a classroom as a “home-base”

  To help out those who wish to have a little more freedom within their study hall, they should be able to check into the resources Mundelein High School provides for students. After all, they’re there to help out students. It would be best to maximize the time spent there. 

  Library information specialist Rebecca Plaza said that the primary reason that the library hasn’t been hosting students with study halls is because the administration didn’t want the library to be responsible for attendance. 

  “What I know, and I haven’t talked to any administration level people, is that the word was they didn’t want the library responsible for attendance like going to powerschool and taking care of it,” said Plaza. “Giving the library staff the responsibility for attendance– nobody [has] wanted to do that. It would be a little difficult– sometimes we’re at the front desk and sometimes we’re in the stacks or here.”

  However, Plaza noted that that change is something the students could advocate for. 

  “If students want to advocate for that in some ways with administration, they would have to approach it,” Plaza said.

  The compromise would be beneficial for both upperclassmen and lowerclassmen. Upperclassmen still get a little more freedom despite not having as much freedom and underclassmen have opportunities to explore the resources at Mundelein.

  The free periods during first and eighth period have been very helpful for the school so far. If Mundelein is going to follow the patterns seen in other high schools, this change will pay off.

  “After looking at a bunch of different schools and their options for free periods– late start, or early release– [it] seemed to be the most efficient way to run a school,” said Buenik. “So that’s what we’ve gone to. It’s really about [whether] you’re either starting school late or leaving earlier. Those are your options.”