Study Halls Not A Great Place to Study

Auditorium+balcony+study+hall+during+second+period

Emma Schieffer

Auditorium balcony study hall during second period

By Emma Schieffer, Opinions Editor

During the public comments at the Oct. 7 D219 Board Meeting, disorganization and lack of safety protocols within study halls at Niles West were called to the board’s attention. Three teachers from Niles West spoke, one specifically mentioning the overcrowding in study halls.

“I was assigned to supervise the auditorium during one of the busiest periods of the day. On my first day there, I politely asked students to raise their masks which was received poorly, to say the least. I asked a student not to throw a full water bottle from the back of the auditorium to a group of students sitting rows ahead,” English teacher Lia Sosa said. “I was also laughed at when I asked a group of students to keep their voices down since other students were starting to work. I was shocked at both the number of students in the space and the complete lack of basic and COVID safety protocols.”

Study halls take place in five rooms around the school: 1750, 1755, 2035, the cafeteria, the Oakton Lobby, the South Lobby, the auditorium and the auditorium balcony. All study halls were observed by the Niles West News on Friday, Oct. 8, and Tuesday, Oct. 12. In the cafeteria, students were spaced throughout the room, sitting in groups similar to a lunch period. In the fifth-period freshman study hall in room 1755, students were loud. One student was throwing a tennis ball at another student, but the supervisor claimed they cooperate with her most of the time.

“We will continue to remind students of our expectations and procedures. The majority of our students are well-behaved. We do have a small percentage of students that need redirecting,” Assistant Principal of Operations┬áSteve Parnther said.

Other study halls around the school were quieter and had fewer people. Most students use their time to work quietly or talk with friends.

“[In study hall] I do work and talk to friends, if I don’t have that much work then I’ll just sit down and relax. From time to time, it’s a little noisy, but usually, it’s pretty relaxed. [I’m] normally in 1750 and 1755,” freshman Jack Feldman said. Feldman, like other students, was moved to a different study hall due to IAR testing.

“Normally during study hall, we’re just chilling or talking. We’re probably doing homework or helping each other with work. The teachers try to keep it quiet, so we whisper to each other if we are trying to talk to each other,” freshman Gio Galantio said.

Teachers and security guards monitoring the auditorium study halls have had the worst experience with student behavior.

“The auditorium study hall has the atmosphere of a playground because people are out of their seats, running onto the stage and yelling or playing music for everyone to hear. It is chaotic and some people even bring tennis balls to play with. Also there is no disciplinary action being taken to make sure everyone wears their mask correctly and keep proper distance at all times,” sophomore Nora Schmidt said.

Schmidt’s study hall period in the auditorium was later split, and she was moved to the South Lobby.

The lack of security guards on campus has added another responsibility for the teachers, assigning them to supervise study halls throughout the day.

“On Sept. 7, teachers at Niles West received an email concerning ‘general supervision needs’. Within that email, staff members were asked to help with study hall coverage throughout the day due to both the need to open up additional study halls throughout the building and security staffing shortages,” Sosa said.

According to Sosa, teachers have faced setbacks with the recent addition of monitoring study halls to their schedules, resulting in less time to plan and work with students.

“Staff members have been working at an unsustainable level for the last three years, and now we’re being asked, again, to give more,” Sosa said.

Building leaders are continuing to address teacher concerns and monitor the study halls.

“We’ve communicated expectations to students, and the deans have visited every study hall period to convey [the] expectations to students. We will continue going into study halls to evaluate the types of support our teachers need. We will also continue to solicit feedback from our teachers and staff to continually find ways to improve our study halls,” Parnther said.

English teacher Dena Lichterman closed her comments with an invitation to the board to visit the school.

“If you were to step into Niles West for even an hour, you would see how much disarray we are in. This year feels more chaotic than the last, and we all know how much chaos there was last year. Any structure that has been implemented in the past is mostly gone, and it is not only the teachers who are feeling it, but many of the students have commented on this as well,” Lichterman said.