By Katherine Conner
When students received their upcoming schedules mid-August, they were suprised to find their Catapult period, a study-hall like class, replaced with another course. These errors were due to T.C. Williams’ administration’s last minute decision to remove Catapult as an option for students.
T.C. Principal Peter Balas acknowledged that Catapult was productive, but the 300 student, 10 percent increase in the T.C. student population eliminated the available classroom space for Catapult.
“We are using almost every single room every period of every day until the relocatables are built. So even if I wanted to [keep Catapult], I had nowhere to put [the students taking the course],” said Balas.
Furthermore, Balas admitted that because of the student population increase, each teacher is being used during every period of each day. “There are no extra teachers to teach [Catapult],” said Balas.
“When I arrived on board [at T.C], the master schedule was a bit behind in the process,” said Balas. Consequently, he was not informed of the Catapult scheduling conflict until mid-August. “Catapult was removed from the master schedule a little bit late in the summer,” said Balas, and as a result, there was a lot of “last minute scrambling to reschedule.”
Had Balas known about the issues earlier in the scheduling process, he would have met with each individual student taking Catapult to explain and help them formulate an alternate plan. “We were so late in the game we did not even have that luxury,” said Balas.
While some students were given their second or third choice elective, Balas said other students were put into random unoccupied electives because, “So many of the electives are packed too. Literally everything thing here is packed.”
This argument is fair, but it presents students with a rigorous course load and extracurricular activities with two problems. Firstly, they lose an hour and half each day to complete a portion of their nightly homework. Additionally, they now have an increased workload from a course they lack interest in.
“At this time there are so many other priorities, [for example] mathematics scores, getting the building under control, so Catapult is not something I am going to war for right now,” said Balas.
Though Balas empathizes with these students he said, “Titans are resilient, we will get through it,” said Balas.
Unfortunately, empathy and “Titan resilience” are not going to save students from staying up hours into the night to study and finish the homework they could have completed during the school day.vv While increasing attendance and test scores are important, it is unfair to prioritize a certain population of students and punish another.
Not only was the option of a study hall removed from the master schedule, but Titan Time, a 25 minute study hall, was also eliminated.
“I don’t like the lack of Titan Time [..], the day no longer has a built in brain break,” said Senior Annlouise Conrad, “It’s 90 minutes per class non stop […] It’s just a lot to deal with on a regular day.”
Titan Time was not just an extra class for free time or to get a head start on homework. This class was a daily designated time that allowed students to meet with their counselors, receive additional help from teachers, and complete make-up work. Many students have jobs, sports, and other commitments that prohibit them from completing these tasks after school.
“For the most part, what I found was [Titan Time] was not a very productive use of time here,” said Balas. “Overwhelmingly, teachers did not like [Titan Time], because they felt that same disorganization [that I felt].” Instead, students would spend the time disrupting classes by wandering the hallways. This led to increased class absences and tardiness, and the eventual elimination of Titan Time.
However, the solution to disorganization is not removal, but finding a better system that allows students to maximize this study hall period. Balas is not opposed to reinstating a study hall period. “[Titan Time] could be a really good use of time,” said Balas, “there needs to be a solid plan in [Titan Time]” in order to make it a productive period.