It’s time to move past Highlander Time

Highlander Time loses its purpose as students return to in-person learning

Cc Palumbo and Grace Gould

The return to in-person learning from a fully virtual environment has caused numerous challenges this year.  This has included rendering Highlander Time, once a time to meet with friends or teachers and catch up on homework, effectively useless. Solutions proposed to this issue have not been able to fully solve the complications created. Due to this, it would be more beneficial to remove Highlander Time from the schedule.

During virtual learning, many clubs moved their meeting times from after school to one of two blocks allocated to clubs during Highlander Time.  However, the return for some to in-person learning has made participation in these clubs extremely difficult.

“Now that I’m back in person, it’s really hard to conduct [club] meetings when half of us are online and half of us are in person, and a lot of teachers are just not allowing the in-person students to interact with the online students, which makes it really hard to maintain those club meetings,” said sophomore and McLean Young Democrats board member Farah Elijazzar.

The administration has made previous efforts to solve this issue by creating more opportunities for socializing, such as holding activities during Highlander Time, but none of them have been truly successful thus far.

“What we’ve been trying to do is have an activity going on [during Highlander Time].  Last Friday, we had our “Game of Games,” and the week before that, we did it on a Wednesday to pull kids out and at least get them to go watch something,” principal Ellen Reilly said.

These activities, though entertaining, have relatively glossed over the real issues being presented by Highlander Time this year.  Not only is it too long, but the gap that has been created by the return to in-person learning has made it nearly impossible to hold fully effective club meetings.

Furthermore, virtual learning has made one of the original purposes of Highlander Time — to meet with teachers in order to ask for help — no longer an option. As students are unable to move between classrooms during Highlander Time, they must wait until class time to ask for much needed aid.

“With club meetings occurring during Highlander Time and not really being able to talk to teachers face-to-face outside of class, it’s been really hard to ask questions this year,” junior Emma Gosse said.

While the Committee on Raising Student Voices (CORSV) has been working with Dr. Reilly to take action on making improvements to Highlander Time, they will not be able to solve the overarching issues that have been presented with this year’s schedule.

“We are launching this new initiative where people would be able to rent classrooms,” junior and CORSV member Yanni Aknine said. “So, club officers, for instance, can rent out a room for Highlander Flex, and club members can go there to hold their meetings, so there’s less of an overlap, and we’re restoring some sense of normalcy.”

The current solution that has been recently put into motion to the Highlander Time dilemma has been to allow students to sign up for classrooms in which they could meet with their friends for the hour and a half period. While this would provide students with an opportunity to socialize, it would not solve the issues of inefficient club meetings and the inability to ask teacher questions during the 90-minute block.

With the end of the year approaching, the window of making changes has started to close. The gap in learning has rendered what was once a short yet productive period of time, completely ineffective. This has raised the question of whether students would be better supported by not having Highlander Time at all.

“I think that having more free time would be beneficial because we would be able to socialize more as well as get more work done,” junior Isabel Butler said.

A shorter school day presented by removing Highlander Time would allow students more time to work on homework and conduct club meetings from home, reducing in-person conflicts. It would also drastically decrease the risk of transmitting COVID-19 by taking away an hour and a half of potential exposure.

The school board, however, will need more convincing to consider making this change.

“All of Fairfax County has to follow this schedule. When we went into virtual learning, the county set aside this block of time for students to be given social-emotional lessons,” Reilly said.

These are good intentions; however, the execution is not hitting the mark, and the most efficient option to best support students is to cut out this block altogether. This will give students the opportunity to make the most of their time.