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Surprise!

A few weeks ago, the Ridgefield High School guidance department talked to juniors about selecting courses for next year. My peers and I were in for a surprise: unknown to most of us, the state had raised the number of credits required for the class of 2014 graduate.

While I agree with this change fundamentally, I wish the school had told us about it earlier. Sure, students should take more classes. As long as kids aren’t overwhelmed, they should take advantage of free education. Sometimes that requires a little nudge from the state.

Maybe I’m at fault for not staying current on state education standards. But for RHS to wait until nearly halfway through the third quarter to tell a group of high school juniors, “surprise! you actually need to take six classes instead of five next year!” just does not seem fair. I know an aspiring dancer who’s planned her entire high school schedule around having plenty of frees her senior year. She needs that time to choreograph auditions to ballet schools. But even though she’s taking two science classes this year so that she can fulfill the old number of credits, she still has to take six courses next year. This problem could have been avoided had the state waited an extra year before implementing the new policy, instead of complicating our last year of high school.

The increased number of courses raises another issue: open campus. Last year, the Board of Education voted to allow seniors who met a certain set of requirements to leave school during their two consecutive free periods. While the program has been successful so far, the administration seems to be holding its breath. During our last advisory meeting, we were told that open campus would be available to us next year, so long as things go smoothly for the remainder of the semester.

The reason open campus works currently is that this year’s seniors have so many frees. Only taking the required five classes gives seniors three frees on most days. That’s over two hours to drive into town, get lunch, get home, and drive safely back to school in time to be back for class. But with six out of eight possible class slots filled, seniors will be hard-pressed for time, and largely unable to use their open campus privileges. I’ve never been a huge supporter of open campus, but I understand why so many of my fellow juniors are frustrated. Instead looking forward to spending free periods in town or at home, they now find themselves trying to find another class they can add to their schedules — in most cases, a class they didn’t really want to take.

Maybe increasing the number of required courses will have great results. This could, potentially, revitalize our education system, or have any number of positive impacts. But realistically, forcing my grade to squeeze one more class into our senior year schedules isn’t doing us any favors. I just don’t see why this couldn’t wait another year.

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  • Robinlp

    What troubled me most about this was that you think a “nudge” from our Government is ok to get you to do something. Sorry that you have to take more classes, but don’t think a “nudge” is ok.

  • Forthedogs

    Life is full of surprises we have to manage to adjust to. Get used to it.

  • Forthedogs

    I forgot one more thing. Free time? Hope you don’t plan to have a career, family, elderly parents, pets, etc. Your attitude and expectations are unfortunate. I’m not sure if you learned this in school or from your parents but someone did a huge disservice to you and all the other students.

  • Mev

    I understand how this is a surprise to you guys, and from the way you put it, it seems like it would’ve been better for the school to give you more of a warning, but unfortunately you just have to go with the flow. I mean, if it wasn’t your class that needed to adapt to the changes for their senior year, it would have been the next class, it was just the luck of the draw. In high school I took 7 courses both my junior and senior year, and I know a lot of people who took 6, and it’s totally doable. I was also part of the class that had to deal with the schedule change for their senior year, and if I had made the same arguement your making, then the class of 2013 would have had to deal with it their senior year and so on down the line. You just have to learn to adapt. I honestly think that the old five course requirement was too low in order for students to get the most out of high school and be prepared for college life (which is the ultimate goal for at least 90% of kids graduating from RHS). I feel bad for your dancer friend, but it’s a good lesson in time management, something that you will need to know for the rest of your life.

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