Extra senior elective leads to program challenges

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This year, seniors come back to school required to take three electives as opposed to the previous years’  two electives. This is because an audit conducted by the Department of Education last year determined that seniors did not meet the mandatory 5.5 hours of instructional time per day.

Allotting more in-class time to seniors has led to a wider variety of running electives. To ensure that there would be enough space for seniors in classes, several teachers were asked to teach extra classes last year. As a result, this year, there are currently more teachers  teaching six rather than five classes than there have been in previous years. However, there are currently two more teachers than there were last year.

“I really believe that we have more electives this year than last year,” said Assistant Principal of Guidance Veronica York. Courses such as Middle Eastern Affairs, Holocaust and Human Behavior, Multimedia Journalism, and Computer Science are now being offered to students.

Despite the greater number of electives, the recently enforced regulations created programming difficulties. In addition, this year’s senior class was larger than most, making it a hassle to find a location for all the students for an extra period of instruction every day.

“Our schedule is challenging for seniors,” said Ms. York. “It’s harder for our program chair to create programs that fulfill the regulations.”

Program Chair and English teacher Raquel Chung confirmed the complications with programming.

“Since we’re working with two time schedules, availability was compromised,” she said, referencing the Bridge Year program in which seniors are required to take two courses at Queens College.

“Years ago, Queens College had a different time schedule that worked outside the high school time schedules,” added Ms. Chung.

Now, since seniors prefer to take their college classes during the school day, which meet for two bands twice a week, the program chair had more obstacles to overcome.

Nevertheless, there were some seniors in previous years that took more than two electives.

“It wasn’t generally recommended,” commented Ms. Chung, “but if they requested it, we did allow it.”

A few of the more popular “extra” electives were Jazz and Concert Band, Social Science Research, Advanced Topics in Science, and Hebrew.

However, seniors not meeting the 5.5 instructional hour time requirement has been an ongoing issue.

According to the Department of Education regulations, seniors must have five and a half hours of instruction, excluding lunch.

Recently, there’s been a crackdown by the DOE on all high schools to meet this requirement through the use of programming software called “Stars.”

Through this program, the DOE looked through the schedules of THHS students to see if most meet the time requirement, only to find that that many seniors did not. In response, the administration said that the reason for this was that the Humanities and Queens College elective seniors took didn’t appear on their schedules on Stars. However, when they were added to the program, seniors still didn’t meet the time requirement.

The administration has also explained to the DOE auditors that the reason seniors don’t meet the time requirement is because for the past three years, they have taken one extra class–freshmen, sophomores, and juniors take eight classes plus lunch, when the requirement is only seven classes including lunch. In addition, the administration believed that the school should be excused from fulfilling the time requirement since seniors have to take two Queens College electives, unlike typical high schools. Though these classes only meet four periods a week, there is more reading and work done outside of class that they thought should be taken into  consideration. However, the DOE bases their audits solely on seat time, and seniors still lacked one instructional period.

To try to increase the amount of seat time, the administration added senior meeting, the Humanities Seminar Friday office hours, and community service to senior schedules, but the DOE would not accept this.

In order to finally alleviate the issue, this year, one extra elective was added to seniors’ programs.

When this new policy came to the attention of last year’s seniors, a number commented that they would have preferred having another elective, saying that the excessive amounts of free time left them with a smaller chance of taking electives that they found interesting.

A few current seniors have a different opinion on the matter.

“[The new elective] forces us to take a class that we most likely don’t want to take and adds unnecessary stress to our senior year which is already stressful in itself,” said senior Taylor Johnson.

Senior Ariana Stergiou would have liked to work on college applications, saying, “Now, not only do I have less time, but I also have more work thrust upon me.”

Some students, anticipating the stress of senior year, planned their schedules accordingly.

Senior Rythika Francis said, “I don’t predict this extra elective to affect my stress levels in any way because I think I selected classes that I could handle.”

Despite this, senior Eial Kestelman is happy with his senior schedule. “What I’m sure of is that if my schedule this year was similar to the past three years, I would be very stressed out.”

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