Have you ever been assigned a big project, homework or a test over winter break? You, like most students, probably procrastinated it until the day before school started again. Most high schoolers know the 2 a.m. project making experience all too well.
At OHS, that is all about to change. The Building Planning Team (BPT), a group of 12 staff members elected by their peers, works every year to find new ways to improve our school.
Christine Sermak (principle), a member of the BPT, explained the focus of the team right now is to work on improving mental health of students and staff at OHS.
“Our charge really is to look at the climate and culture and look at ways to really improve the building,” Sermak said. “It’s come up from conversations with students, and it came up with our District Strategic Plan, both from family members and students in grades seven through twelve that filled out that data. Mental health was the number one [priority] across the board everywhere.”
One of the ways the BPT is working on doing this is by implementing a new no homework over winter break policy. The rule will not permit teachers to assign any type of homework over break. Powerschool, the website teachers and students use to access grades, will be inaccessible to students during this time.
“We are saying that there isn’t going to be any homework assignments due the day you get back from break or any tests taking place. If you want to, you can completely shut it down for those two weeks,” Sermak said.
The BPT hopes this will encourage students to take a real break. With no homework to work on, students will have more time to relax and spend the holidays with their family and friends.
“We really are encouraging students, and families, but really students, to unplug,” Sermak said. “That’ll allow each student to refresh, rejuvenate, recharge, and take a well deserved break and hopefully come back to school in January of 2020 refreshed and ready to finish the semester strong.”
After meetings with each of the academic departments and the staff as a whole, the BPT made a couple of changes to the proposed language before their approval of the rule. The rule originally banned any type of assignment; homework, projects, readings and quizzes to study for were all included. After deliberation, the BPT and OHS staff decided to only ban homework instead.
“Everyone was on board, but there were some suggestions,” Sermak said. “We’re really saying we’re not assigning homework, it’s not gonna be due on Monday, but obviously if students want to work, catch up, that if you are an AP student or a student in research, or any class and you have a project … we’re allowing some flexibility for students there.”
AP teachers were previously going to be exempt from the rule, but upon further deliberation, they also will not be assigning homework in an attempt to allow all students to enjoy their break.
Many students’ reactions have been positive, as expected.
“I think it’s a great idea, because it’s a break, we don’t need homework,” Jayli Husband (12) said.
However, the reaction from teachers is much more mixed. An anonymous survey revealed that only 38 of 47 teachers agreed the rule would improve the lives of students.
“I’m all for it. I don’t even give homework on the weekend. We put way too much of a focus on school. I’m sorry, but you’re here for seven hours a day, that’s like a job. You’re done, go home, have a life, exercise, see your family, sleep, have a chance to veg out,” said Danielle Tandoc (Science), who is an avid supporter of the rule. “The [homework] that I give you, I try to have it be something that is meaningful. I think that homework should really be extensions, and I think people take homework to be the curriculum because they don’t have enough time in class.”
Other teachers, however, have their doubts about it.
“I wouldn’t say teachers are against giving the break, which is what the rule is trying to [do], they just wanted to know the data and research behind not giving the homework. Is that really going to alleviate the stress? We just wanted more answers to why we were doing this,” Chrissy Schoonover (Math) said.
Many math teachers shared this concern, especially because their subject’s curriculum doesn’t allow for as much flexibility as others.
“It was hard to be told this is how it’s gonna be, and it’s gonna impact all this at once the same way when [departments] have their own things to think about. Math gives homework just about every night unless it’s a quiz or test night … What if we are days behind because of snow days and curriculum and what if we don’t get to where we need to be with our time frame for exams? That’s not just an easy fix for our math department, that’s why we were asking those questions. We all care about the kids’ mental health,” Schoonover said.