The Wessex Wire

The Student News Site of West Essex Regional High School

The Wessex Wire

The Wessex Wire

OPINION: Administration must reopen the option to replace gym with a study

By: Ava Vigilante
Ava Vigilante
Student athletes should have the option to take a study instead of having gym class during their season, to decrease the stress of time management.

The climate of West Essex centers strongly around athletics and the majority of students are involved in at least one after-school sport. Many of these student-athletes face the nearly impossible challenge of balancing their school work and the rigorous demands of their sport. The state of New Jersey allows students who show evidence of daily exercise from a school sport to replace physical education class hours with a study hall. West Essex should take advantage of the opportunity to help minimize the stress countless students are facing with an alternative option. 

While New Jersey makes the option available to all public schools, West Essex has decided not to implement this policy for various reasons. However, these reasons should not trump the mental health benefits this program could provide. 

During the months when their sport occurs, many students get home at 5:30 p.m. at the earliest, but more often than not, that time exceeds 7 p.m. With the amount of work students are assigned, they are forced to stay up well past midnight in order to complete their assignments. The extra hour a study hall could provide them would be extremely beneficial, allowing them to go to bed at a more decent hour. Athletic Director Anthony Minnella recognizes how valuable this time can be to West Essex’s student-athletes.   

“A lot of our student-athletes are in many challenging classes, and the positive of swapping gym with study hall would be that students can use that time to work or take a mental break,” Minnella said. 

While physical activity for teens is extremely important and should be prioritized, students who play a sport get more than enough exercise every day. Especially at West Essex, a school that is ranked very highly in sports across the board, practices and games include levels of intensity and commitment that ensure students are getting the required amount of exercise. But, it also cuts into the time set aside for homework. Administration fails to understand this aspect of teens’ lives, leading them not to prioritize replacing gym with a study hall as a solution to the stress.  

One major concern faced by the school is the effect this policy might have on accessible resources. If students were given the option to take a study, there would be an exponential increase in the number of students in each class period. This would mean more staff or more classrooms are needed, two things that are already scarce within the school. 

“It never worked out here but there are some logistical concerns we would have to think about,” Assistant Principal Kimberly Westervelt said. ”Because this is a very active school and a lot of our students are athletes, it would significantly increase study hall numbers to a point we may not be able to handle.” 

While garnering accommodations may be difficult, it should be a top priority for the administration. They are constantly emphasizing the importance of time management and being well-rounded. Considering how strongly they emphasize this point, it would be expected that they implement this policy. Actions speak louder than words, and truly prioritizing students’ mental health would be an excellent way for the school to follow through on their promises. 

Senior Eden Kleefield decided to seek out the program when she heard of a friend taking part in it from another school. With her dance teacher continuously signing off on her hours of exercise, she was free to take a study.

“This impacted my mental health for the better because I was less stressed out after school and got to go to sleep earlier,” Kleefield said. “I think it also helped my grades improve.”

Due to Kleefield’s participation in various clubs and activities, she was constantly under a time crunch for her assignments and struggling to stay awake late enough to complete everything. However, this program allowed her to rectify this by getting work done during a study hall.

The school needs to publicize this information more, as Kleefield was only able to find out about it because of her own curiosity. The program has the potential to benefit many teenagers, and the administration should work to make this possible. 

Behind the Byline
Ava Vigilante
Ava Vigilante, Chief Opinion Editor
Ava Vigilante is a 2024-2025 Senior Chief Opinion Editor for the Wessex Wire. She enjoys playing soccer, spending time with friends and family, and going to the beach.
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