By Lily Moss
Are high school students too old for recess? With the intense school day beginning at 7:45 am, followed by after-school sports, extracurricular activities, and endless hours of homework and studying, the level of stress and anxiety for the typical high school student is pretty high. However, there is a way to relieve students of the pressure without jeopardizing the high standards of education that is required. The answer is simple: free periods. Free periods give students a chance to relax with friends and catch up on homework, along with allowing them to simply decompress and let their minds take a break.
BHHS provides every student with one scheduled free every nine school days in place of their science lab period. Many students can agree this is not enough. Rebecca Fink, a junior at BHHS, thinks it is important that we have more frees built into the schedule “in order for students to get ahead on assignments and combat their stress while still at school. It gives us a chance to take a break from our class and regroup for the day.” Although most students face pressure to do well, juniors in particular are faced with the stress of the beginning of the college process on top of the normal school pressures. Another junior, Dani Stein, explains, “along with our regular heavy workload, the additional ACT/SAT prep, driver’s ed, and college searching is a lot to handle at times without a set period of time enabling students to take a pause from classes.”
There are high schools that do recognize the need for more frequent free periods or “study hall.” Both Horace Greeley High School located in Chappaqua, NY and The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, NY accommodate their students’ school pressures by providing them with free periods each day. At Horace Greeley, there are six days per schedule cycle. Ashley Wachtfogel, a junior at Horace Greeley, says “I have at least one free period everyday, and the most amount of free periods I have in one day is three. These periods help me become less stressed with my school work because of the time taken away from my extracurricular activities.” The first period also allows students the opportunity to catch-up or get a headstart on their assignments or projects. The Wheatley School’s schedule consists of “a” and “b” days both with eight 42 minute periods. Jamie Konigsberg, a student at The Wheatley School, explains, “On “a” days, I have one free period, and on “b” days, I have 2 free periods. Some of my friends have up to three free periods everyday.”
Both Horace Greeley and The Wheatley School are top school systems with high achieving students. It is clear that these schools have not compromised the quality of their curriculum or the high performance level of their students with the addition frees.
I think these schools have the right idea: more frequent breaks will allow students the ability to de-stress. Whether it’s just having quiet time to relax, socialize with friends without racing through the halls to get to the next class, catching up on homework, or just to re-energize.
While many people agree that free periods can only improve the lives of students, some see these free periods as unnecessary. BHHS student Emily Cooper states, “with the heavy course load that students sometimes feel is necessary, there is often no time for free periods during the day.” With the four core subjects required, a foreign language, electives, and AP classes, many students don’t have time for a period to “take off.” Opponents to the addition of free periods feel reaching the required credits for certain electives, along with trying to raise one’s GPA by taking more classes is more important than being able to have more free periods.
While there is this opposition, most can agree that the initial premise remains true: building more free periods into students’ schedules is beneficial. Not only can it help students’ stress from the heavy workload they receive, but being given time to relax may even improve their ability to focus and be attentive in subsequent classes.