The spaces which used to be buzzing with conversation and filled with students during the flex time are now quiet, due to the temporary removal of flex passes throughout Oyster River High School (ORHS).
Administration took away flex passes, also referred to as the ten-minute pass used during the flex periods, as part of a reset due to inappropriate use. While this connects to the larger issue of students misusing flex, mainly by roaming the halls and going against protocols, many students have found this decision frustrating.
Mark Milliken, Assistant Principal at ORHS, explains that this decision was made for multiple reasons, concerning the misuse of flex passes. “We were seeing increasing traffic in the hallways during flex with groups of kids traveling together, to the point where teachers complained that there was so much noise and traffic in the hallways that they couldn’t even conduct flex. It seemed like the one big issue was the flex pass, so we decided that we needed to have a hard reset, and [remind students] of flex expectations,” said Milliken.
Nori Sandin (’23), a senior at ORHS, feels that this decision has made utilizing flex extremely difficult. “Suddenly, [checking in with a teacher] turns into a twenty-five-minute affair, where I’m stuck in one room, and can’t go see another teacher. It’s really hard to complete the smaller tasks, because all of a sudden what I used to get done in one thirty-minute flex session, I now have to spread out over a few days, which is really inconvenient for me.”
While Scott McGrath, a Social Studies teacher at ORHS and senior advisor, understands the student frustration, he feels that administration were right in their decision with the removal of flex passes. “The school has an inherent responsibility to justify how we spend our time in school, and that includes flex periods. [Flex passes] are a privilege, and when a privilege is abused, [the school] has every right to take it away. The results of inappropriate behavior among such a significant portion of our student body needed to be addressed. So, I think eliminating the flex passes for the time being was appropriate,” said McGrath.
McGrath continued, “Does that mean it’s particularly convenient for me as an advisor to seniors, who very often want to use the flex pass for an appropriate purpose? Of course not. [Teachers] are allowed to write hall passes, but of course that takes more of my time, as I’m trying to meet with other students.” While it may cause extra work on his part, McGrath feels that it’s necessary due to the larger issue at hand.
Colin Klein (’24), a junior at ORHS, has similar views as Sandin, feeling that the removal of flex passes makes flex time useless. “Flex is supposed to be for going to see teachers and asking quick questions, but it feels impossible to do that anymore. I don’t really know why we’re having flex at this point, when it feels like you’re not even allowed to use it.”
Klein recognizes that flex is an issue. However, he feels that there is a greater issue with discipline at the school in general, that is simply more apparent during an open time like flex. “It feels like kids are always just doing whatever they want, and then there’s no consequences. So why would they stop doing what they’re doing? Why would they stop roaming the halls, causing problems, and not doing their work? It’s a school wide issue, but flex is almost a grey area in that regard, because there is so much freedom and you’re allowed to be out of the room. While it may be an unpopular opinion, I think there has to be a crackdown on students regarding this behavior, throughout the entirety of the school day,” said Klein.
While Milliken understands these concerns, he feels that the majority of the problem is rooted in flex times. “[During flex], we have teachers submit cut slips to us. I have a whole list of people I need to follow up with. Usually, we give a warning the first time but then it’s a detention if it’s repeated. With flex, it was an issue of ten to twenty kids gathered in the hallway, whereas the rest of the day, it’s maybe one or two. They’re very different circumstances.”
Similarly, McGrath feels that flex and the normal class periods portray very different situations. “There just isn’t that volume of people in the hallways during class periods like there is during flex,” said McGrath. “The problem really comes down to supervision. When you have large groups of students just hanging out with no clear supervisory person, that presents a real safety issue.” McGrath went on to explain that a safety issue quickly becomes a liability issue for the school, which can have many negative consequences on its own.
When asked how this issue can be resolved, Sandin proposed a more flexible version of the current hall passes which are used at ORHS. “I think something as simple as a signed note listing the locations you need to go could be effective. I think that if we just make a modification of what we already had, it could really help the system to run in a more efficient way than it was.”
Administration is currently working on a more permanent solution, which they hope to put into effect after April Vacation. This will ensure that students can utilize flex passes, while eliminating the current struggles.
– Sarah Laliberte