Classes over the Summer May Not Be a Bummer


Courtesy of Alison Shikada

Seven periods. That’s all you get. Factoring in core classes of math, science, history, religion, English and foreign language, you are left with one tiny spot in your class schedule. Free period! Just kidding–you need to put in yet another graduation requirement.

While the Presentation curriculum is very well rounded and versatile, scheduling is a  very challenging and grueling process. Many students find themselves looking for classes that they have to take, as opposed to want to take. They often forgo a class that they would love to take for a class that is a Pres graduation requirement. This is especially the case with P.E. and art classes.

We pay a private, Catholic school tuition. Therefore, we are given the opportunity to take classes that no other school offers. Yet these multiple required semesters of PE and art (four semesters of art for the class of 2018 and later and one semester of PE for all non-athletes) often prevent students from taking cool courses like AP Psychology, Bioethics, or Women and Money.

That’s not to say that we don’t like P.E. and art, just that we’d like to have a little more flexibility about when we take these classes.

On that note, it would be great if Pres girls could take their P.E. or art requirements over the summer, when they have time to relax and really enjoy them. Currently, no such courses are offered during Pres’ summer school session. However, they should be.

While Summer School Principal Siobhan O’Byrne brought up the valid point in an interview that some girls would just cram their schedules full of more honors/AP classes–and their accompanying stress levels–more room in the schedule doesn’t necessarily mean more classes. If a student doesn’t wish to pursue other courses, she can take a free period instead.

In fact, 139 out of 191 participants (72.2%) in a recent Voice survey would rather have a free period than another class if they had room in their schedules. Personally, I’ve never had a free period; I just never had the time. I feel like I’m missing out on an opportunity to sleep instead of worrying about homework at 1:00 in the morning or even to take a mental break in the midst of frustration and stress in school.

Of course, it could be argued that P.E. and Art classes are effective outlets for stress, so it’s better to offer them during the school year. While this intention is commendable, students may not find these classes to be stress relieving at all. Many art classes require extra time outside of the allotted 85 minutes to complete art pieces. Having a time constraint on art makes it difficult to produce pieces that the student is truly proud of.

Plus, those that are not artistically inclined may find these courses to be very difficult, and more stressful. For example, Ceramics students love the class, the curriculum and the projects, but constantly find themselves working long hours after school, creating a higher level of stress in a class that is designed for stress-relief.

If art classes were to be given over the summer, three hours working on a project would be significantly more efficient than one class period and an occasional collaboration here and there. More time to enjoy art and less time to stress about the other six classes would give students time to reflect on their creations and develop a real appreciation for the arts.

P.E. classes would also have benefits if they were given over the summer. During the school year, students may have intense workouts in the middle of the day. Who wants to be sweaty and gross when she’s sitting in a confined classroom surrounded by her friends? Some may argue that it’s helpful to have P.E. during the school year for students to experience endorphin-reducing stress. However, this should be up to the student. Instead of sweating through 85 minutes of activity, girls could actually complete their homework during free period.

P.E. during the summer could also motivate sedentary girls to get up and get moving. Pres girls are all too familiar with the summer slump: no homework, few responsibilities, an open refrigerator, and non-stop Netflix binging. For underclassmen who can’t drive or work yet, completing a graduation requirement in the summer could give them more breathing room in their regular school schedule.

This lack of choice is a real concern in the Presentation community. In a Voice survey given to the entire student body, an overwhelming 155 of the 191 respondents (81.4%) agreed that they would take P.E./Art classes over the summer for credit. One student commented, “There are so many random classes like Sociology of Media, Modern History or Global Women’s Issues that I want to take, but just don’t have the time!”

An especially passionate student exclaimed, “THIS SOUNDS AWESOME!!!!!!” Another said, “I would really appreciate if there were art classes over the summer so I can fulfill my requirements without dropping one of my favorite classes.”

Students should have a choice. Giving the option to take P.E./Art classes over the summer for credit will provide so many more opportunities to explore and discover during the regular school year. Pres girls could develop a passion for a subject that could ultimately lead to further research in that field. One of our classes could even expose a student to her future college major. And for those students who choose a free period instead, their overall health and well-being will greatly increase.

After years of surveys and evaluations intended to reduce stress at Pres, perhaps all we need to do is make P.E. and Art classes available for credit over the summer.