Structured Study Halls Shake Freshman Expectations


Isabelle Snyder

Mary Miyamoto, freshman, works in her structured study hall with Mr. Kimbro. A mixed structure, Miyamoto is able to use her phone after keeping up her grades for the first marking period. “[Structured study hall] is crucial for keeping [ninth graders] in school. And when I say that it means we don’t want to lose any ninth graders [before] graduation. So we need to make sure that they know how to stay organized, how to study, how to take good notes, how to be a good citizen in this place of State College Area High School,” Mrs. Tobias, Freshman Principal, said.

Isabelle Snyder, Staff Writer

Two weeks into the 2019-20 school year, a unique new policy was implemented, resulting in an outcry from much of the freshman class. The change that brought about such a reaction? Structured study halls.

Structured study halls are by no means a new institution at State High, where students are automatically assigned a structured study hall if progress reports reveal grades lower than a D. Whereas the structured study halls of the past included students of all ages and lasted only as long as it took to improve the problematic grades, Freshman study halls, as the name implies, include only freshmen, and are automatically assigned to all students with a free period. The rules are essentially the same, with earbuds only allowed for academic use and at the discretion of the teacher. Students must turn in phones at the beginning of every class, with some teachers going so far as to hang a phone jail on the front wall. Student trips are limited to the bathroom or office/counselor with a pass. While administration clarified that library trips are allowed at the discretion of teachers and with a pass and digital sign-up, the enforcement of this policy varies between teachers.

“It feels really unfair that we aren’t even allowed to visit the library because we were promised the ability to at the freshman kick off and kids who ride the bus don’t get very many chances to attend the library,” freshman Hedy Lewis wrote on an online petition calling for an end to the new study hall policy. Though this apparent restriction raised alarms among students, Mrs. Tobias said that library trips were allowed, but up to the discretion of the teacher.

“Entering ninth grade can be one of the most difficult, the most academically challenging times in a child’s life,” 9LC Principal Mrs. Tobias said. “Along with self-esteem issues (…) there are developmental changes, there is an environmental shakeup where you’re in a brand new high school that’s enormous, and these kinds of things are facing young adolescents. School districts risk watching ninth-graders fall through the cracks without proper transitions in place.” 

While some students are hesitant to concede any benefits to structured study halls, a few are hoping for compromise. “We should have a choice of what we do,” freshman Jeg Yang said. “Sure, there should be some strict limits, but it can’t be to the point where we can only read if we don’t have work, or [do homework]. I understand that study halls are mostly to do your work, but there should also be a choice for students. If we have a structured study hall, we don’t have fair rights. So, I think we could have some structured days, but definitely not all the time.”

As to the accusation of unequal treatment of freshmen, Mrs. Tobias acknowledges that the first few weeks of this new institution will definitely be the hardest. Structured study halls will be an option for all students once progress reports are released, so until then, the freshmen are alone with a new institution: one that, according to many, is not the right solution to a complicated issue.