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Editorial: Pascack Period’s disguise has worn thin

Mandatory “DEAR” time is most recent in line of questionable administrative choices

Smoke Signal Editorial Board

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After two years, it’s finally time to come out and say it: Pascack Valley’s “innovative” Pascack Period has been a hoax from the very beginning.

The Pascack Period was advertised to PV students as a weekly opportunity to follow their passions. It was supposed to be the time for students to take classes about subjects that interest them, to have extra time to complete schoolwork and reduce stress, to meet with teachers for extra help and clarity in their subjects, or to relax and take some time off in the middle of the week for themselves.

In other words, it was presented as a time dedicated to the students to do as they pleased, a noble concept that won over many when the district was switching to block scheduling.

Not included in the initial description of this Pascack Period, however, were the all-too-frequent mandatory assemblies, freshman seminars, and other restrictions that have become more familiar to PV students than the classes and extra time itself. The truth is, the administration has used this time “dedicated to the students” for their own convenience, essentially treating it as their own get-out-of-jail-free card to push all of its miscellaneous events and activities.

One of the various new bookshelves set up around the school for mandatory DEAR time.

Kelsey Hagen
One of the various new bookshelves set up around the school for mandatory DEAR time.

This year’s new addition is the most egregious and perplexing of all. Once every two weeks, the administration is cancelling either Pascack Period A or B for mandatory “Drop Everything and Read” time. Students are required to read a book, any book, in silence for the given 45 minutes. That means no laptops, no homework, and no extra help. Just reading.

Not only are many students bound to ignore this requirement, but it is a logistical nightmare to enforce. The first session of DEAR reading this Wednesday included students roaming the halls and  sprawled out in corners with their laptops out. The “quiet areas” in the cafeteria and old gym were anything but. Judging by the mess that was the first session, it would be wise for the administration to either drastically increase enforcement of the rules of the session, or perhaps more feasibly, just abandon the idea as a whole.

The administration has officially taken student choice out of Pascack Period. Don’t believe it? Take a look at the school calendar. This Wednesday’s Pascack Period was sacrificed for senior class pictures which took place during Session A and the first mandatory DEAR reading time which took place in Session B.

Not deemed important enough to have during shortened weeks, Pascack Period and block days will not occur over the next two weeks, meaning the next Pascack Period isn’t until Wednesday, October 19th. Also scheduled during that period is a “Week of Respect” assembly and another DEAR time Session B.

Come the second week of November, there will have been only two completely unobstructed Pascack Periods.”

Two weeks after that, on November 2nd, the DEAR time will occur during Session A, and there is also a “Red Ribbon” assembly planned. All of these special events do not even account for the weekly freshman seminar that freshmen are forced to attend for the entire first half of the year. Come the second week of November, there will have been only two (yes, two) completely unobstructed Pascack Periods. This will inevitably continue throughout the rest of the year, if past years are any indication.

This is a complete divergence from the “student choice” that was so heavily promised at the beginning of this process. A student doesn’t have so much a choice as to whether or not to attend the assemblies, as almost all of them are made mandatory. Not that every student goes.

Which brings up another key issue that has plagued the Pascack Period since its inception. Even when the classes do run uninterrupted by assemblies or events, the organization is so poor that no one is quite sure what to do or where to go. Some students sign up for multiple Pascack Period classes per session. Others sign up and don’t show up because attendance is not taken. Rooms often conflict between scheduled Pascack Period courses and teachers giving extra help.

So it’s time for the administration to be honest with the student body. Did it ever intend for this Pascack Period to be for the benefit of the students themselves? Because it certainly seems like it jumps at the opportunity to cancel the class whenever possible to force students to attend whatever assembly or event it conceives, no matter how minor.

If the purpose of the class was to create an opening for all of these miscellaneous events, that’s fine. But it was not presented in this light to the students, parents, and rest of Pascack Valley community. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the original vision of the Pascack Period as presented to the students was a classic case of smoke and mirrors.

But at least PV received a lot of good publicity for this “innovative” new Pascack Period system.

Hey, whatever makes the headlines.

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15 Comments

15 Responses to “Editorial: Pascack Period’s disguise has worn thin”

  1. Jake Lutz on September 29th, 2016 9:11 am

    I need extra help a lot. I need all the time I can have to complete my assignments. I have a lot of athletics and activities after school so I don’t have a lot of time after to school to complete school work. When we had DEAR time, I was up until 11 o’clock at night finishing homework because I usually do my school work during pascack period. But DEAR time threw me off. And considering that a lot of my friends and I want to join clubs, we won’t be able to join those clubs considering that we have for read for half the period instead of doing school work. I definitely agree with your article on DEAR time. I very strongly agree with this statement, “it would be wise for the administration to either drastically increase enforcement of the rules of the session, or perhaps more feasibly, just abandon the idea as a whole.”

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  2. Andrew Kritzler on September 29th, 2016 9:29 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article!

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  3. Jack Burleson on September 29th, 2016 9:37 am

    Couldn’t agree more with this. Pascack Period isn’t being used for its intended use, and it’s especially egregious when these classes hardly have any time to get together during the year as it is. While I understand the importance of DEAR time and assemblies, we shouldn’t have to sacrifice what few Pascack Periods we have for them. I also appreciate how this editorial doesn’t pull any punches. Thank you for writing this article, because I think this is a widely held opinion among students that simply isn’t being voiced.

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  4. Tara McNiff on September 29th, 2016 9:40 am

    Yesyes, this article is 120% accurate. It’s very unfortunate of the new addition of DEAR time in order to basically get more attention for the school. In my opinion, if you’d like to get people to enjoy the school even more, have it go back to appealing to the STUDENTS rather than the PARENTS. The parents aren’t the ones going to the school, we are.

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  5. Kelli Player on September 29th, 2016 10:34 am

    I completely agree with this article. Even though getting kids to read more is a great thing, stopping half of Pascack Period and MAKING them read isn’t going to get them to enjoy it more, but have the complete opposite effect. Thank you so much for writing this article!

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  6. Christa Stankus on September 29th, 2016 10:35 am

    I think this is a great article, I agree with the criticism of Pascack Period. When a friend of mine stated to the administration that he did not think DEAR time and Pascack Period were beneficial to the students, he was told that his opinion was “in the minority” and was dismissed. So, thank you to the writers of this article, my hope is that the administration will listen to its students more often.

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  7. Matthew Killian on September 29th, 2016 10:39 am

    If people wanted to read a book during Pascack Period, they would already do that. Pascack Period is advertised as a study hall period, and you can even take extra classes for fun, but having DEAR time prohibits students from using Pascack Period in a desirable way. I agree with this article.

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  8. Josiah Stankus on September 29th, 2016 10:46 am

    I agree with this article. This article states exactly how I feel, and I know many other people feel the same way. A friend of mine made the administration aware that he was not happy with DEAR, he was told that he was in the minority. I hope that the administration will read this article and take into consideration that not everything they do is accepted and liked by everyone.

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  9. Caleb Burleson on September 29th, 2016 10:50 am

    I love Pascack Period. But DEAR Time completely destroys the purpose of Pascack Period. Pascack Period is meant to get extra help from teachers, take classes, and get work done. We can’t do any of that when we’re being forced to read. Plus, being forced to do anything won’t encourage it. If anything, students will want to read less because of this.

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  10. Kax Petkovich on September 29th, 2016 11:04 am

    I agree with this 100%. Pascack Period is a great idea, but it cannot work if we don’t actually get any free time during it. I know that myself and many others need that time to catch up on work, study, take classes, or even just get a break from the stress high school brings. And with all of these assemblies and scheduled events that are “mandatory”, Pascack Period pretty much doesn’t exist. I happen to be friends with a lot of people who run classes, and it is very difficult to get anything done in your class when you constantly have to reschedule due to the ridiculous overabundance of assemblies. We are not the minority. Every single student I know has agreed with me. You can’t pick and choose the people you get your statistics from. Pascack Period is pretty much necessary for many students to get work done and even just take a break, and that’s kind of hard with all the useless stuff that is constantly scheduled. And they wonder why it’s so hard to get people to come to their assemblies.

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  11. Giovanna Moralishvili on September 29th, 2016 11:07 am

    I definitely agree with this article. To be honest, I love reading, but when it comes to Pascack Period, reading is that last thing on my mind. Pascack Period is the only time I have time to finish my homework, practice my music, or go in for extra help. After school I have so many after school activities to do that I usually end up starting my homework around 9pm and end up going to bed around 1am. Last year, I always thought Pascack period was great because I can finally get some work done and can actually go to bed at a reasonable time. With the new DEAR system I ended up finishing my homework around 11;30pm and I barely understood half of it due to not being able to go in for extra help. I believe I speak for many students on my half when I say that if I want to read, I will do it on my own time or after I finish all of my work. The school should promote reading in a different way, not by forcing the kids to stop doing all of their important work (that has an actual due date) and read a book that could be read at any given time.

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  12. Julian Stiles on September 29th, 2016 12:14 pm

    I absolutely agree with this. Forcing people to read will not make them enjoy reading, if anything it would make them like reading less. This new DEAR time could be put to so much better use. For example, several students were getting extra help on a paper due the next day, but they were forced to stop and told to read.

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  13. Evan Ferioli on October 20th, 2016 9:08 pm

    Yes, thank you for speaking for probably 99% of the PV student body. Pascack Period is just a session so that the district can look good. “The concept for the Pascack Period is to enhance student independence and allow for students to sign up for educational activities that they wouldn’t normally be able to,” Superintendent Erik Gundersen said. Yes, Mr. Gundersen, because forcing students to read while they have work to do is considered “independent” and so are assemblies. I’m not sure either, why Pascack Valley is so big about extracurriculars. If you encourage too many activities that aren’t school, you’re going to sidetrack students from actually working on schoolwork, thus why people are stressed and do their work during Pascack Period.

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  14. Ryan Thomas on November 3rd, 2016 1:52 pm

    When I first came to pv in september i was so excited. The pascack period is a time of peace and freedom for students to join clubs and do homework and see teachers if they are struggling. However, the new freshmen seminar destroys that ability. We go to freshman seminar and learn about bullying and other information that we have already learned in prior years. I joined habitat for humanity, but because of Freshman seminar and these assemblies that are mandatory I have not been able to attend one meeting yet this school year. There is often no time for students to get any work done and get extra help when there is no time during pascack period.

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  15. Kyle Rifkin on December 30th, 2016 12:34 pm

    I’m glad someone else had the sense to put this into words. Every week I am extremely frustrated with the sudden revoking of an hour and half that I purposely scheduled to get work done. Not even 1/2 way through this year I have had 2 different cases where I had an exam in every class within a one week period and I need that time to study, meet with teachers, etc. Last time this happened there was a mandatory assembly for everyone in my grade, and I just blew it off because I had to meet with teachers in order to not fail their tests. On top of that I participate in Panasonic Creative Design Challenge, which in past years has been the focus of the Engineering II course, so we lost 62.5% of our time to work on it, and with pascack being slashed left and right, we’re losing even more time. I would be less infuriated should the district at least give us advanced notice that pascack period isn’t happening. The article stated that it was on the district calendar, that is the first I am hearing about this. I think the best thing they can do is stop making the assemblies mandatory. Those who are interested will go, while those of us who need to use that time for our academics can. Or better yet, condense those assemblies into an email. Most of them feel like they should be

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Editorial: Pascack Period’s disguise has worn thin