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.