By Krisha Patel and Scotty Reynolds
Starting the 2019-2020 school year, a shift from study halls in classrooms to mass study halls in Convocation Hall has sparked mixed emotions among students and faculty members. According to Dr. Weber, Administration decided to make a change this year on grounds of a substitute teacher shortage in Pennsylvania. There are days when many teachers have trainings, meetings, personal leave, or sick days, and there are not enough substitutes to fill up their classes. Administration believes that if a majority of the study halls are now in one area, there will be fewer teachers needed to supervise students, leaving more free to fill in classes where other teachers are absent when necessary. There are certainly instances in which the cluster of teachers in Convocation Hall can be useful. When no subs are able to cover a class, a teacher in Convocation Hall can travel to the room to watch over as an interim sub. Administration views this as more efficient and helpful because most of the teachers in the school with a free period are in one area.
Many students find the mass study hall inconvenient for an abundance of reasons. There isn’t enough space, an excessive noise level, a distracting atmosphere, and students find themselves unable to focus with an excessive number people around them. “I don’t think the Convo Hall desks are big enough for me to be able to work efficiently and the people around me distract me, causing me to not be able to use my study hall adequately,” said Senior Sophia Georgelis. Students with this concern were encouraged to sign up for the Library, which is open during most, if not all, weekdays. This allows students to have access to a larger work area in the Library compared to the space in Convocation Hall.
The incapability does not stop with the students and their ability to get work done; most days, it takes too long to scan the QR code projected for students to mark their attendance and, on certain occasions, the code doesn’t work at all because the link is overwhelmed. “I’d change the sign-in. The QR codes we scan almost always end up not working, so if we could just check our names off a list, it would make life an much easier,” said junior Gellila Asmamaw. This suggestion has been presented among a long list of alternatives to signing in.
Other students talked about not being able to focus because there is a large number people around them having conversations and acting rowdy. Administration recognized these flaws and made a silent study hall available to students who were having trouble concentrating in the loud environment. They closed off a section of the Convocation Hall, and only students who wanted a silent work environment were permitted to go there. Unfortunately, the quiet study hall is sometimes unhelpful to some students. For example, if two people are collaborating on a project or homework, they are not allowed to talk in the silent section. It can be too loud in the “talking section” as well, creating a problem in this instance. If the Library is full, this is the only option for students attempting to take advantage of their study hall. Options for students trying to work collaboratively in the mass study hall are limited. In the study halls of past years, there were some study halls were strictly silent. This does not exist, however, in the mass study halls. Students must either decide to sit in the section with people doing little work or choose to be completely silent—even if they are attempting to collaborate on work.
At the beginning of the school year, the mass study hall was viewed as very disorganized since it was new to both teachers and students. Mrs. Noll, math teacher and study hall administer, says, “The study hall in Convocation Hall feels a little more chaotic, but it’s starting to feel more comfortable…As we are getting used to the study halls in Convocation Hall, I am becoming more efficient. I’m not as efficient as I was in my room, but I have been able to help students who are former or current students who know I am a math teacher.” said Mrs. Noll, math teacher and study hall administer. ,As the year has gone on, teachers and students have both become more accustomed to the ins and outs of the difficult situation. With the addition of the Library as an option for students, Convocation Hall has become less crowded.
Although there are still many bumps to be smoothed over in the coming months, the study halls have improved greatly since the first day of school. There have been major differences and useful updates to the study halls in recent weeks, such as the addition of a silent room, despite how unbeneficial they can be. Nevertheless, issues like the QR code scan and the entire sign-in process can certainly be altered to a more suitable procedure. If students had a say in the matter, it would be safe to say that they would prefer to go back to regular study halls. Although large amounts of people can help students consult with their peers and work together, an auditorium full of people is just too much. The classroom-sized study halls were more conducive to a studious and collaborative environment.