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Letter to the Editor: Spring break trips are too important to miss

Sports overshadow academic experiences

Baseball+is+just+one+of+the+spring+sports+that+students+are+missing+academic+trips+for.
Baseball is just one of the spring sports that students are missing academic trips for.

Baseball is just one of the spring sports that students are missing academic trips for.

Charlotte Atkinson

Charlotte Atkinson

Baseball is just one of the spring sports that students are missing academic trips for.

Matt Novakowski, Pascack Valley Student

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(Editor’s Note: Matt Novakowski is a PV student who, like many others, is unable to go on extended school trips due to his commitment to a spring sport. His opinions are not necessarily those of The Smoke Signal or its staff.)

Innovative. This is a commonly used word when describing Pascack Valley. For the past decade Pascack Valley has been perceived and labeled throughout the community, state, and nation as one of the most innovative school systems in the country. Known for its 1:1 Laptop Program, which the district implemented in 2004, Pascack Valley has only expanded its innovative initiatives.

Within the past two school years, Pascack Valley has conducted three virtual days, which allowed students to stay home and complete their work, rather than physically being in school. Virtual days are a useful tool for the future in the event of a school closing, or if giving students a break at the halfway mark of the school year, students would still attend “class” through their school issued laptops. Yet, the innovation did not stop there for Pascack Valley.

Pascack Valley made headlines in the news again this past April after the Board of Education and school passed a new transgender policy. Not only did Pascack Valley demonstrate its support for the transgender community by passing this policy, but it also showed the school’s willingness to move in the direction of equality and acceptance.

This past spring break, close to 100 Pascack Valley students embarked on a trip of a lifetime. Five separate groups traveled all over the world for different school-related trips. One group went to Peru, where they visited historical sights such as Machu Picchu. Another group went to the Galapagos Islands, where they visited the Charles Darwin Research Station and other islands off the shores of Ecuador. Another group traveled to Switzerland and Germany, where they visited the CERN Particle Accelerator and saw a nuclear reactor near Munich, Germany. Another group traveled to London and Paris, where they visited the London Eye, famous monuments, and Buckingham Palace. The last of the five groups traveled to Italy, where they toured famous cities such as Venice and Florence.

Beyond the school’s walls, playing fields, and newspapers, Pascack Valley is far from innovative.”

— Matt Novakowski

What better way for Pascack Valley to show off its innovative techniques than by sending almost 100 of its students out of the country to learn firsthand? These students experienced history up close and personal. This is a new way of learning that Pascack Valley has initiated for its students.

From the looks of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook it appears that these students enjoyed every minute of their travels. They learned, experienced different cultures, and most importantly left with a new perspective on life. But a picture does not always tell the entire story, and that is the case with Pascack Valley’s tradition of trips to places and countries of history.

For the ordinary person, who has no affiliation with Pascack Valley, after hearing of Pascack Valley’s progressive methods, it is easy to assume that Pascack Valley is one of the most innovative high schools in the country, right? Wrong. While Pascack Valley appears to be innovative and ingenious, beyond the school’s walls, playing fields, and newspapers, Pascack Valley is far from innovative.

One problem for people is that they only see Pascack Valley’s accomplishments. Similarly, via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, the viewer just sees the trip these students are on, but does not experience it. People outside of Pascack Valley do not have the full understanding or the whole story behind these trips, and it is those stories that prove how far Pascack Valley actually is from innovative.

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Novakowski lines up at the plate earlier this season. (Charlotte Atkinson)

High school is a time for teenagers to grow physically, emotionally, and mentally. High school is supposed to prepare students for college and life’s endeavors. But most importantly, high school is supposed to be fun and engaging, especially when your high school offers trips all over the world to places like Germany, the Galapagos Islands, Peru, Switzerland, and even Italy.

Ask anybody the best way to learn a new language or learn about a new culture, and they will say experience it firsthand. That is why it is so incredible that Pascack Valley offers these opportunities to its students, but for some students the decision to go on one of these trips is not as easy as it appears. For some students it is a huge decision they are required to make, but it is a decision they should not have to make. Most of the students affected by this decision are students who participate in a spring sport. Whether it being lacrosse, softball, baseball, tennis, golf, track, or any other spring sport, if you participate in a spring sport you unfortunately need to choose between a trip of a lifetime or a game. There is no middle ground. If you choose the trip, you forfeit your spot on the team. Some coaches have a two for one policy, where if you miss one game you sit two games, but others just remove you from the team. If you choose the sport, you lose the opportunity to see the world. You lose the chance to learn about a different culture, and you do not get to experience life outside of Pascack Valley, Hillsdale, and River Vale.

This decision is a large reason to why PV is not as innovative as it appears. It is a shame, but what is even worse is that the administration of Pascack Valley does nothing about this. Pascack Valley should be encouraging students to travel and learn abroad, they should not be discouraging them and punishing them for wanting to expand their knowledge. There are students who do not go out for a certain sport because they fear the consequences of missing a few games due to a trip like this. At the same time, there are students who miss out on an opportunity to see the world because their coach threatens to remove them from the roster if they go on a trip like this. No high school student should have to make a decision like this, and no high school student should have to deal with the consequences. If you want to play a spring sport you should be able to. If you want to travel in the spring with a class, you should be able to. If you want to play a spring sport and travel in the spring with a class you should be able to, and administrators, teachers, and coaches should understand that.

If you participate in a spring sport you unfortunately need to choose between a trip of a lifetime or a game. There is no middle ground.”

— Matt Novakowski

This year, next year, and in the future there will be students who continue this great Pascack Valley tradition of exploring the world around us. However, there will be that percentage of students who stay home because they are unable to attend the trip due to a conflict with sports. I think Pascack Valley has forgotten that sports are just games. No student should be reprimanded or punished for missing a few games in order to travel the world. Pascack Valley has forgotten what high school is all about. High school is about learning and enjoying your years before adulthood. Yes, athletes make commitments to their teams, but at the same time they make commitments to themselves. And no administrator or coach at Pascack Valley, or any other school district, should have the ability to say that the commitment made by the athlete to his or her team is any more important than the commitment that he or she made, as a student, to the class in which he or she will attend the trip with.

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One Response to “Letter to the Editor: Spring break trips are too important to miss”

  1. Carly Comito on May 6th, 2016 2:03 pm

    First of all, thank you Kyle Comito for sending me this link and thank you Matt for writing this article. I can’t believe this nonsense is still occurring at Pascack Valley.Ridiculous to see that PV administration and coaches are STILL punishing students for academic trips like that. If you are reading this and in this position, GO ON THE TRIP! I am a college student now who went through hell senior year because of my choice of going to Italy over softball, and I do not regret it for a second. Italy was the best experience of my life and if your coaches, teammates, and even parents choose to punish you and team up against you for that choice, it’s because they’re jealous! No matter what threats your sports teams give you, I can guarentee that your trip will be worth it. I played softball for 10 years and went to Italy for 10 days and yet, I have so many more amazing memories from Italy. Shame on PV sports and administration for continuing this absurdity. This is an important article that every PV student and faculty member should read and be aware of!

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Letter to the Editor: Spring break trips are too important to miss