Allowing ninth courses supports non-academic interests

Students call for schedule expansion, opportunity to further passions

Junior Matthew Baumstark, despite arriving early in the morning everyday, does not receive credit for his enrollment in Jazz Band. According to Baumstark, he is one of many students whose transcript does not reflect their time and effort in a course.

Being allowed an additional course would resolve this, providing him and many other students with opportunities to further pursue passions, while receiving credit for their work.

Currently, students are required to take a minimum of six courses and are encouraged to take seven, but they have the option to expand their course load by submitting an eighth course request, where the limit currently stands, according to Principal Dr. Lauren Fagel. According to Assistant Principal Lara Cummings, the decision to implement this practice was initiated in 2014 when transitioning to the block schedule, in efforts to align South with the action previously taken by Glenbrook North. However, in a non-scientific Oracle conducted survey of 343 students, 43 percent say they would take more than eight classes if given the option.

In order to reconcile the two stances, the Oracle Editorial Board believes that students should be able to take more than eight classes under certain conditions and granted on a case-by-case basis. The additional classes should be electives with a focus on in-class work and that are not already enrolled at maximum capacity. A student that has a demonstrated history of responsibility and academic strength should be permitted the additional class.

The stipulation that extra course work cannot be primarily academic would ensure that students use the opportunity to explore certain interests their schedules would not otherwise allow. In an environment like South, where opportunities flourish, students should be encouraged to explore every avenue available to them and utilize all the resources offered.

An already demonstrated history of handling difficult and heavy course work, accompanied by guidance, would potentially circumvent negative mental health effects. Counselor Travis Myers says that although students seeking additional courses mean well, the added burden has historically left students feeling overwhelmed. However, if the additional course entails less homework and academic burden, then the additional block could have the opposite effect. A low-stress class centered around a student’s passion can be just as relaxing as Student Resource Time, especially if they opt into it. For example, Painting teacher Stephanie Fuja says that, for students who use their time wisely in class, the Painting elective becomes a class that can potentially improve students’ mental health rather than detract from it.

“In my opinion, kids need to have a block in the day or a time in the day where they can release,” Fuja said. “[They need a class] where they can feel stress-free, where they can feel like they don’t have these worksheets to turn in, or they don’t have these extra things to do. [They need a class where] they can just be themselves and they can just create.”

Therefore, the Oracle Editorial Board encourages open and transparent dialogue between counselors and students regarding such a possibility. Reviews on a case-by-case basis and thorough evaluation of all nuanced factors and needs would give individuals autonomy while still prioritizing their mental health. The Oracle Editorial Board takes into account that, according to Cummings, occasionally these eighth course requests are denied due to staffing conflicts or classroom restrictions. We propose that these students are at least given chances to pursue these additional course requests.

Furthermore, the disparity experienced by Jazz Band members such as Baumstark represents the adverse effects of the practice on students who invest ample time and effort but are barred from the same recognition as their peers. However, we understand that not all students carry an accurate judgment of what they can handle, again stressing the need for a case-by-case evaluation of each situation.

“I can’t think of any [negative aspects to allowing a ninth course] off the top of my head because it’s not a mandatory thing,” Baumstark said. “If people don’t think that they’ll be able to handle the extra class or don’t want to expand their interests at all, they don’t have to take an extra course. But if there [are] people that want to do that and they are able to do it, why not have the opportunity? It can’t hurt.”

Although the maximum eight class rule has fair justification, the Oracle Editorial Board encourages that students be given more flexibility in the matter. For capable and willing students, the pursuit of a low-stress ninth course would allow for exploration and self-improvement. Students should not be barred from such growth, but encouraged.