By Ann Needle
Nashoba Regional High School’s recent move to help alleviate a space crunch triggered a Stow parent to question whether the school made the right decision. But NRHS administration countered that the solution is making for a better academic environment for those looking for a quiet place to study.
In the Sept. 7 Stow Independent’s Over the Fencepost, NRHS Parent Patricia Smith Boye asserted that the high school’s new policy of calling for students to sign up on Sunday nights for time in the Library Media Center the following week defies the guidelines of a professional organization of school librarians.
Boye’s letter stated that the new NRHS protocol “flies in the face of the position statement of an effective school library program as designated by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) which states in part, ‘Open access to a quality school library program is essential for students to develop the vital skills necessary to analyze, evaluate, interpret, and communicate information and ideas in a variety of formats. Inquiry skills are taught and learned within the context of the curriculum and may occur in the classroom, the library, or at home with 24/7 accessibility to a wide range of resources, technologies, and services.’ She continued, “Equitable access will not be equitable by utilizing a sign up sheet on Sunday for only some students with online access or a computer available at home.”
Responding to the letter, NRHS Principal Dr. Parry Graham stressed that the sign-up requirement applies only to a student’s study period, and not to after-school use. Graham said, “On average, a kid will have one study per semester.” He noted that the Media Center is open after school to everyone until 4:30pm Monday through Thursday.
Down to Space
All of this came about after many parts of NRHS have become over-crowded, including the few designated study period spaces. The Nashoba Space Task Force observed that NRHS classroom space currently is at about 93% capacity, with the state recommending high schools be using no more than 85% of space at a time.
Graham said all freshmen go to the Academic Support Center during their studies. Upperclassmen are assigned to the auditorium foyer, with the option to go instead to the Media Center, with no classrooms available for study space for the 100 or so students in a given study period, said Graham. While the school has tried to keep a balance between an environment for academic work and relaxing after homework in both these areas, “Last year too many students opting for the Media Center meant that area became more social than academic.” He added that the Media Center also hosts classes that of students and teachers working together on projects, meaning, “It’s now past that tipping point where there are too many students.”
In proposing the weekly sign-up solution, Librarian Tracy Landry explained she modeled Nashoba’s new system after another school’s program, where it appeared to be working well. Graham mentioned that requiring weekly sign-ups may help assure different students have access during study periods. And, while the number of study students in the Media Center is limited to 30 per period, Graham noted that classes coming in with their teachers are not counted in this minimum, and that a student with an assignment emergency can come in with the say-so of the class’s instructor.
As for the auditorium foyer — an admittedly odd space, albeit large, for a study hall — Graham mentioned that the school put in some study-friendly improvements over the summer, including better lighting.
Meanwhile, Graham answered another criticism in Boye’s letter that, “Apparently the high school will be offering coloring pages and puzzles in the foyer for students who can’t get in to the library.” Graham pointed out that the items were added to the Media Center last year for those who have finished their work and wanted a relaxing activity. He commented, “They’ve actually been quite popular” — to the point where NRHS is considering placing some in the auditorium foyer.