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Tag Archive: high school

  1. In Connecticut, high school football season remains in question

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    Cheering students dressed in blue and white have traditionally filled the stadium bleachers for one Friday each fall, crowding in for the annual Staples High School homecoming game in Westport, CT. But this year is different.

    Due to COVID-19, this year’s football season is in question for all of Connecticut. The
    Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, otherwise known as the CIAC, has continued to
    debate whether fall sports, among which football remains the most popular among conference
    schools, should be allowed to continue among the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

    The season is set to begin on Sep. 8 and to end on Oct. 30. While no decision is finalized, the
    CIAC has said it plans to have a meeting on Monday in order to finalize a plan for all fall sports.

    “I think the plan that the CIAC came out with so far is extremely fair. If you’re going to go forward
    with sports I think it’s very well thought out and I think they did a good job to try to give the kids
    the best experience possible if you’re going to Play.” said Dave Ruden, a local sports reporter,
    of 30 years who has covered the CIAC’s discussions.

    According to the CIAC’s website, the plan is for fall sports to occur with a few modifications.
    These include no spectators, a smaller schedule of 6-8 games and practices in groups of 15.
    The changes have angered students and families.

    “I’m really sad that it’s my last year. I won’t be able to cheer on my friends,” Andrew Amato, a
    Weston High School senior said.

    The modified season also greatly affects the players and their recruitment process. Last year , Staples High School sent three students to schools like John Hopkins, Michigan and Harvard in football scholarship. The loss of a complete season has now threatened the future of about half dozen members of the class of 2021 that seek to be recruited to play in college.

    “{The players} aren’t gonna have film for college coaches to look at and some kids will either
    maybe not get the offer they hoped for,” Ruden said, “and there’s going to be some that may not
    even get the opportunity to play in college.”

    A cancelled season would mean many students would miss recruitment opportunities. The Connecticut Department of Health issued a statement to the CIAC on Aug. 1 expressing their concern and the need for both football and girls volleyball to get moved to the fall. As of now, the CIAC has chosen to ignore this and continue with the upcoming season. If they were to follow the DOC’s guidelines, the football season would have been long-gone by now.

    Others have begun to experiment with different ways sports can be played. Ruden said he
    believes it would be effective if students were to attend school for two weeks. If these two weeks
    run smoothly regarding no positive cases, then sports should follow. If they don’t run smoothly,
    then that is an issue within itself.

    “It’s gonna be a real let down if I don’t get to play my senior season,” said Staples Varsity kicker
    Max Szostack. “Not only will I miss the game, I will miss out on my last season with my
    teammates. I’m just hoping the season stays on even if it means having guidelines and I have to
    wear a mask.”

    Many Westport residents have begun sharing a petition in hopes of making the rules more
    lenient. The petition calls for the implementation of measures that would reduce exposure between players, including daily temperature checks, excluding parent exclusion from the
    field, mask requirements for those entering sports stadiums and the prohibition of huddles during sports games.

    The petition has acquired almost 1,000 signatures.

  2. Test-optional won’t do: why all universities should go test-blind during the pandemic

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    In response to the global Coronavirus pandemic, over half of American universities have decided to go test-optional, a system where students can decide whether or not they want to submit standardized test scores, in their 2020-2021 admissions cycles. 

    The decision to go test-optional seems to be the most rational for public safety and the liability of universities this year. Students can put their safety first because they are no longer required to go to testing centers with hundreds of other students, and going test optional allows for flexibility in this uncertain time where many testing centers could decide to close. Universities like Bridgewater College of Virginia and Berry College of Georgia, have announced they will adopt a decided to go test optional admissions policy for even longer. Bridgewater announced their decision to go test-optional for three years and Berry college has decided to do so permanently.

    On the surface, test-optionality has provided some students the opportunity to stay home and stay safe by not taking standardized tests. However, there is still a considerable population of students that have decided to continue to prioritize testing in their college application process despite many colleges’ decision to go test-optional. 

    A solution to the issue of many students prioritizing testing over safety would be for colleges to go test-blind. Going test-blind eliminates any need for students to gather at testing centers at all. Additionally, it eliminates concerns of inequity regarding testing.

    The pandemic has pushed many university administrations to prioritize the importance of health and well-being in this year’s testing process for students. 

    “Our primary concern is always the safety and well-being of our applicants and students, and we hope that adjusting our policies brings clarity and peace of mind to prospective applicants,” said Logan Doug Powell, Dean of Admission of Brown University, in a statement

    The Deans of Admissions from Dartmouth College, Amherst College, and many other institutions have echoed Powell’s sentiment regarding preventing the spread of the Coronavirus and maintaining the safety and well-being of high school students in their own statements announcing the decision to go test-optional.

    Despite many colleges’ effort to promote the safety of students, the College Board is still administering tests. And while many test centers have closed down, some have decided to remain open. This month, around 223,400 students will still plan the SAT, as first reported by Forbes

    Not only does this process risk adding to the spread of the virus through gatherings of hundreds of students, continued administration of standardized tests also lends an unfair advantage to wealthy families who have the means to fly or take other modes of transportation to a location that will allow their children to test, which some families have already been doing.

    Evidently, many students and parents don’t really believe the “optional” part of test-optional. Families are still doing all that they can to get their children to an open testing center. However, this is not just the fault of students and their families. Many college counseling firms have suggested that students take standardized tests if possible.

    “If the option [to take a standardized test] is available to you at some point, we definitely recommend taking it,” a representative from InGenius Prep, a college counselling firm based in Massachusetts told the News. 

    The IvyCoach, a college counseling firm based in New York City, issued a similar  statement in their blog. “So long as a university offers applicants an opportunity to present testing, these schools will consider the scores and students with great scores will always have an advantage over students who don’t submit scores — no matter what these schools’ press releases may explicitly say to the contrary,” read the blog post. 

    In addition to college counseling firms strongly suggesting that students find a way to take standardized tests, many colleges themselves have encouraged students to send in test scores that showcase their best work and could possibly help their applications. While this encouragement does not explicitly advocate for testing in unsafe circumstances, some students and their families might interpret this encouragement as a reason to take standardized tests.

    Advocates of test-optionality have expressed that going test optional levels the playing field for marginalized groups such as underrepresented minorities and low-income students. While that is true, test-optionality also allows wealthy families to find ways to test, ultimately giving their children an advantage in the college admissions process. Going test-blind gets rid of these concerns. One of the colleges that decided to go test-blind is the California Institute of Technology.

    “Test-optional policies aren’t worth the paper they are written on,” read an IvyCoach blog. “The California Institute of Technology . . . didn’t recently announce a testing policy that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Rather, Caltech recently announced a legitimate test-blind policy for the next two years.”

    Going test-blind is a legitimate way of putting safety and health as a priority as well as leveling the playing field for underrepresented minorities and low-income students. Colleges should have decided to go test-blind instead of test-optional this year, and if more schools think about going test-optional through the Coronavirus, they should strongly consider going test-blind instead.

  3. The risk of over-simplifying mental health

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    In class, someone straightens their pencil and paper and notes. “I’m so OCD,” they say. Their fellow classmate holds their tongue, knowing their diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder leads to violent, intrusive thoughts. Thoughts that make them tap their pencil six times before using it and always click the light switch twice before they can leave the room.

    As members of Generation Z have grown older, transitioning into young adulthood, many have drawn attention to the stigmatization of mental illnesses and the importance of addressing and caring for one’s mental health.

    It is this generation that has projected the discussion of mental health discussion onto a much larger public stage of social media and representation in news than in previous decades. More open conversations and resources have become available in schools and open conversations between students and families have become more common.

    The lessening stigma of discussing mental illnesses, misrepresentation in media and overall lack of proper education has led to a dangerous trend in self-diagnosing.

    “When you self-diagnose, you are essentially assuming that you know the subtleties that diagnosis constitutes,” Dr. Srini Pillay wrote in Psychology Today.

    “The media does not represent the complexity of mental illness in general. There’s this sense that it’s just a one-name-fits-everybody, or one-title-fits-everybody,” Nikki Marks, a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder told U.S News

    Our generation is thus prone to self-diagnose mental illnesses. The terms depression or OCD is often floated around casually by high school students.

    The harm in these phrases stems from a misunderstanding of the illness and the symptoms and behaviors that accompany it. The sadness that stems from a relationship breakup or bad weather greatly differs from the intense fatigue and potential suicidal thoughts that are symptoms of depression, yet they are convoluted using this definition of the word depressed. Depression implies that the individual is “feelings of severe despondency and dejection”.

    A tendency for being organized and neat is exactly that, neatness. Having OCD can mean intrusive thoughts about violence that cause someone to repeat actions in patterns or numbers.

    With rising national and global issues, civil rights movements and growing up in the age of social media and technology, it’s no surprise that Gen Z faces unusually high reports of stress and depression so it may not always be an exaggeration when someone makes a claim of certain mental illnesses.

    Access to proper mental health care and treatment remains difficult for a large portion of Americans. Knowing this, people may have a mental illness, suffer the symptoms and talk about it but are not officially diagnosed, yet it is very real.

    “For people with serious mental illness, you actually have better access to care if you have Medi-Cal than commercial insurance.” Dr. Tom Insel, a psychiatrist who serves as chief adviser to California Governor Gavin Newsom, said at the National Institute of Mental Health.

    Almost a quarter (22.3%) of all adults with a mental illness reported that they were not able to receive the treatment they needed, according to data reported by Mental Health America.

    An important distinction is that between mental health and mental illnesses, which can go hand-in-hand but are not the same. Mental health refers to one’s mental/emotional well-being and should be taken as seriously as physical health as the two make up our overall health. Being stressed, insecure, or overwhelmed can lead to bad mental health, and a person’s mental health fluctuates constantly.

    However mental illnesses, according to the American Psychiatric Association, “refer collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders — health conditions involving Significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior” and can also be genetically passed on.

    With this growing normalization of mental health issues and illnesses also come generalizations.

    High school students, at times, associate mood changes to having a sentitude of what it is to be bipolar.

    This can lead to the convolution of a debilitating disorder with a humorous condition.

    Generalizing behaviors of mental illnesses can lead to a sense of invalidation for those living with them.

    While symptoms vary from person to person, those who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder can go through manic episodes in which they can become delusional, and then fall into depressive episodes which are entirely debilitating.

    Commonly hearing people describing normal human tendencies or behaviors as symptoms of an illness undervalues the mental and physical struggles that typically accompany such diagnoses. The generalization of very complex illnesses that can manifest and a large variety of behaviors and feelings, into common actions of being sad or nervous also shows a still great misunderstanding of what mental illnesses are and how they function.

    Generation Z must be ready to change this aspect of how we consider mental health. To do so, schools should implement mental health programs that educate students on these topics into their wellness curriculums. Influencers, activists and the general public should not only advocate for mental health awareness and education through social media platforms. Individuals should work to educate their peers and friends on why generalization and self-diagnoses can be harmful, and teach the truth about mental health issues.

    We can work together to both reduce the stigma around mental health and mental illnesses and provide an accurate education on the complexities of mental illness.

  4. In defense of fifty minutes: preserving traditional class schedules at Staples High School

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    For the upcoming school year, the Westport Board of Education plans to extend class time from 50 minutes to 80 minutes. in the hopes that students will be able to have “deeper discussions.” While in theory this would be productive, the eighty minute long class periods will ultimately keep students being fully engaged in the entire lesson, especially during Zoom classes.

    Many of the BOE members stated during an August 13 that they believed extending class time would be very beneficial for high school students as it would allow for students to learn their material uninterrupted and would help limit the number of students that come in contact with one another.

    In a non-pandemic year this change may have made more sense; however, in a school year where at least half of the student body is going to be spending their day looking at their laptop screen, students will be unable to truthfully pay attention. In fact, in a study done by Educators for Excellence, they found that two-thirds of the students they surveyed reported not being able to pay attention during remote learning. Increasing class time would just increase this number.

    Students tend to learn better when they are in class for shorter periods of time because it is much harder to keep children engaged for longer amounts of time. A University of Texas at Austin study found that students do better during shorter classes because of the effectiveness of their attention spans.

    Shorter classes, with more direct instruction, would create a more productive learning environment. In Colorado, teachers are only allowed to spend thirty minutes per subject each day while teaching online. When the class work is condensed into a shorter time period, students are able to put all of their energy into the one assignment instead of trying to sustain themself for 80 minutes of class work. Westport should follow this model.

    Westport teachers also shouldn’t have to worry about changing their curriculum this year, while also having to concern themselves over adherence to CDC reopening guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 54% of Connecticut teachers believe that reopening with the current safety protocols will be a challenging change to the past norms; they don’t need the added stress of trying to change their regularly scheduled work to fit an 80 minute class instead of a 50 minute class. There is already a lot of pressure on the teachers to just handle being safe in their classrooms, without having to handle changing their pre-plan lessons to fit longer class times.

    While fewer classes in the day would help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, through less student movement and interaction throughout the school, with proper cleaning protocols, moving throughout classes should not be an issue. The school has already taken extensive measures to protect students and has invested in several thousand dollars in personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.

    Safety is extremely important; however, students should not lose the quality of their education because of an extended class length. Westport is a district that is capable of ensuring safety and education and shouldn’t feel as though they have to sacrifice one for the other.

    Keeping class periods to 50 minutes instead of 80 will create a better learning environment, It will allow students to engage fully with their lessons and conversations and teachers will not have to worry about changing their curriculum to fit an 80 minute long class. This school year will be challenging, lets keep the constants to best ensure students and teachers succeed..

  5. Amid pandemic, high school football coach takes a break from football for the first time in four decades

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    In these strange times of quarantine, Georgetown Prep Varsity football Head Hoach Dan Paro is minimized to emailing his lamentations and organizing the occasional Zoom call with his players.

    For the first time since 1983, Paro is left alone on the field with nothing but silence and a cool breeze at 8 in the morning on the turf field. This time any other year he would be supervising almost 100 high school boys in football pads and helmets running drills on a playing turf whose surface temperature reaches 110 degrees by midday.

    Under his coaching Georgetown Prep has amassed over 140 wins with the football team and 20 championship titles. Last year, his coaching prowess shone through when his football team returned from a 13 point deficit to win the championship in the second half.

    “For the first time in my career the pandemic has challenged my attitude. What fuels me each day is the time I spend with the players and students face to face and in person. This has all been taken away. But, as I have said before, we have to fight through it and make the best of a bad situation. Attitude and faith dictates all, that is why it is always 50 and windy here at Prep,” said Paro.

    Paro attended Georgetown Prep, graduating in 1979. Now, he serves as the head varsity football coach and athletic director. Paro played 8 years of college and high school football, going on to earning All-Ohio Athletic Conference athlete honors and graduating with a masters in Athletic Administration.
    His life has revolved around the institution.

    Now the pandemic has uprooted everything. The conditions of the pandemic has cancelled practices and delayed the start of the football season.

    “It feels wrong to be this close to fall and not have football while hell week sucks and your body is sore and you want to go home, at least you all do it together and go through the highs and lows together as a team,” said Luke Lustig, junior and first time player on Paro’s varsity team, said of the cut .

    Each summer the football team would usually spend a week at Georgetown Prep living in the empty dorms. The team has practice three times a day in the scalding summer sun hence the name “hell week”.

    “Paro makes the practices and workouts tough but also gives us time for fun and bonding like the storytimes with upperclassmen and the skits we do on comedy night” asid Lustig.

    Where some would see the pandemic as a break from work and stress of football, Paro said he sees a part of himself missing. Football being something that makes him whole and something he devotes hundreds of hours to. He believes that in these strange times his players have taken responsibility and have kept in shape for the good of the team.

    “Good athletes are born with a gene, but great athletes are those whose work habits in all aspects of life each and every day allow them to reach new heights. Attitude dictates all and the great ones have it.” he told the News.

    Those who play for Paro learn to value his coaching values: hard work conquers all and he pushes his players to be great in both the classroom and on the field.

    Paro’s coaching style is built off of his values as a Jesuit alumni and instructor. The primary of which being his beliefs in ‘cura personalis’ or ‘care for the individual’ and ensuring he coaches each and every player knowing their strengths and weaknesses.

    Recently graduated senior Christopher Singleton long stood out from his peers, until his senior football season, when injuries derailed his athletic career. He started with the first day of football camp and tore a hamstring, relinquishing him from all summer football practices and scrimmages just to return to the sport and a single game later tearing his ACL and being done for the rest of his senior season.

    “As soon as I got injured Paro was the first one to come to my room…and if it wasn’t for him I would not be playing football today. Paro helped me find my love for football and also played a huge part in my recruitment to Gettysburg College” said Singleton.

    The player said he sees Paro as a father figure while boarding at Prep — someone who truly cares about students on and off the field.

    In his senior year Singleton went into a panic relating to the future of his football career since he was injured and would not be able to show his senior film. Paro went on to assist him into a starting role at Gettysburg College.

    Singleton said he remembers Coach Paro telling him that “adversity is your friend” as a student-athlete. This has pushed him to keep hope and the drive to play football through all of his surgeries. It also lit a fire under the now 4 underclassmen on the offensive line who had been thrust into a starting role their first year playing varsity.

    “In one practice we were really struggling to get the lineman steps and wide receiver routes down, but there was no shouting and no anger. We simply kept going until we got it right.” Paro said. “You can’t coach Xs and Os, you must know the person and understand them to have them play at their best.”

    Paro’s leadership has created a culture that students want to be a part of. Without this student s wait. Now Paro and all of his athletes hope to make a big return in their delayed season occurring in March 2021 and to be back on their home field once again.