HomeCampusCHS ceases study hall option for freshmen student-athletes

CHS ceases study hall option for freshmen student-athletes

By RILEY PALSHAW

Despite Carmel High School having typically given freshmen student-athletes the option to switch out of physical education and into a study hall, this fall CHS terminated its study hall class for all grades, just as in-person schooling resumed full-time. 

The question is why administration would choose to do without study hall in a year coming off of the pandemic, and many students, parents and teachers are asking the same thing. 

“I don’t understand the policy,” says Robin Mayer, a CHS parent of three daughter athletes. “Student-athletes have very limited free time as a result of their participation in sports. The study hall would really help athletes achieve academic success.”

Up until the 2021-22 school year, freshmen student-athletes had been able to switch into a study hall class for the duration of their season, allowing three-sport athletes to go practically their entire freshman year without taking a PE class. But this year, freshmen are required to take a full year’s worth of PE, and the typical study hall class has been traded for a more collegiate free period, available solely to upperclassmen, giving students more agency over their time. And for years study hall has served as an opportunity for students to get back some of the time they dedicate to high school athletics, and for freshmen specifically, a study hall helped them balance the new responsibilities and workload of high school. 

“Playing a sport was difficult because it did not leave much time for homework,” says junior Sophie Southard, who took study hall freshman year. “When Carmel High offered a study hall free period for athletes, I was able to spend more time practicing.”

With no option of a study hall, all freshmen, including student-athletes, are now required to take a full year of physical education. (photo by Riley Palshaw)

Study hall was valued by student-athletes in the past, and current freshmen are wishing that they had the same opportunity.

“Study hall would have been a nice option for freshman student-athletes,” freshman Sophie Morgan says, “because a lot of kids are getting used to the high school workload compared to middle school. It would be nice to get some of that work done during school so that there is not as much after practice.” 

Freshman biology teacher Kevin Buran also worries that study hall has been terminated since “it takes time for younger students to adjust to the academic rigors and expectations of high school life.”

Since study hall is not a graded class but it requires the teacher to take attendance, it is considered a supervision of minors and requires a teaching credential, which former study hall supervisor Pam Sullivan does not have. 

“Without any real clear evidence that there was an exemption or anything like that,” principal Jon Lyons explains, “we aired on the side of ‘we should probably look at this in a different context, because I think we’re setting ourselves up for major concerns.’”

In hopes of giving students more flexibility and a more collegiate environment, Lyons pivoted away from the study hall period to the free period phenomenon, and moved Sullivan to the newly founded wellness center, where she continues to build connections with students. 

A teaching credential was not the only obstacle that swayed administration towards the decision to terminate study hall. According to the California Department of Education, high school students are required to take two full years of PE, but with study hall in place, student-athletes could get away with only taking a few mere weeks of PE. The rest of the year, they were in Sullivan’s study hall class getting work done instead of following state regulations. 

CHS already waives the second year of the required physical education curriculum for all students, so kids were getting away with substantially fewer PE credits than the 20 credits technically required by the state. CHS students only earn the correct amount of credits if they opt to take another PE elective later in their high school career or if they fail their fitness test, after which the school requires them to take a second year of physical education. 

“Kids should be in PE,” says freshmen PE teacher Debbie French. “I understand that study hall helps them academically, but it doesn’t meet the PE requirements.” 

So how would administrators fix this debacle?

“Let’s at least get all of our ninth graders out of study hall, where they’re not getting any credit,” Lyons says. “Let’s get them into PE for a year so we can lock that in, and let’s give our 11th and 12th graders a little more freedom in their day with the free period.”

While study hall offered a structured environment for students to work and get homework done, the school reminds student-athletes that athletics are an additional responsibility that they volunteer to take part in, and therefore they must learn how to manage their time. 

“Athletics is always an extracurricular, it is an extra, it is not part of your course of study,” the principal says. “I am responsible by the state of California to fit the standards, of which PE is a part of. Down the road, do we talk about two years of PE? We probably need to if we are going to get truly compliant.”

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