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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