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Seniors Sebastian Nee and Jonathan Watson enjoy their free block outside the gym. Photo courtesy of Valerie Yarova.

Seniors Sebastian Nee and Jonathan Watson enjoy their free block outside the gym. Photo courtesy of Valerie Yarova.

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Juniors Ben Showard-Guerrero and Garthan Freeman are “stuck” in Dr. Matt Teller’s room for study hall. Photo courtesy of Valerie Yarova.

Juniors Ben Showard-Guerrero and Garthan Freeman are “stuck” in Dr. Matt Teller’s room for study hall. Photo courtesy of Valerie Yarova.

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Free blocks or study halls? The age-old debate continues at The Gregory School as to whether or not students should be forced into supervised study halls or if they should be allowed to manage their own time without direct supervision.

Most students take six or seven classes per semester, leaving an open eight-block rotation. Right now, students in good academic standing are given one or two free blocks, where they must remain on campus but essentially can spend their time how they please.

People in their free block are not supervised and can choose to do classwork or basically anything else, so long as it does not violate the student handbook or break any laws.

Students in free block often spend their open block outdoors, in the student lounge or in the cafeteria, or in the library. Each location has its own personality: the student lounge has couches and no adults, while in the library the librarian asks students to keep the noise down for studying, and outside the weather is often nice.

Students also occasionally get help from teachers with the same open block or can make up missed tests during this time. Most students we spoke to enjoy their free block experience and find it helpful.

Students with a grade point average below 2.75 or any grade lower than a D in their classes are assigned to a supervised study hall, where some teachers may require them to complete schoolwork.

Some students, teachers, and administrators are questioning whether free blocks are actually beneficial. After all, students are not forced to work. Some of them choose to study hard, but others elect to relax, unwind, or simply watch videos on YouTube, stream a Netflix movie, or play video games.

Junior David Castillo said, “I work really hard during my free block because there is very little time in the day between classes and extracurriculars for doing homework. It’s easier for underclassmen, but juniors have a lot of work to do.”

In a recent poll conducted by The Gregorian Chant, about 75 percent of respondents said they were academically productive during their free block. Thirteen percent did not have a free block, while thirteen said they were not academically productive.

Some students argue that there are just as many distractions and temptations in a study hall. Freshman James Bauman said, “In the first quarter, I had my study hall and everyone was just watching TV.” Other students argue they would be happier if they could determine where to work, when to work, and what to work on.

“Teachers can’t force students to do what they want, so free blocks are just better,” said freshman Addison Mort.

Another argument is that if parents want their students to be well-prepared for college, allowing students to develop time management skills and work independently helps achieve that goal.

Mort said, “I think people are more productive during free blocks, because most people actually do homework.”

Bauman said, “People are productive in free blocks if they have something they need to do, and if they have nothing to do, they’ll just do whatever.”

Most students appreciate their free blocks, but they are constantly longing for the ability to skip school instead of remaining on campus for their free blocks.

Some hope to come in late if they have a free block in the morning or leave early if they have one in the afternoon.

Right now, all students beside seniors will receive an unexcused absence or tardy for skipping their morning free block, while they are not permitted to leave campus after their classes and miss lunch and their free block at the end of the day.

Two and a half hours after their last class, many students are wishing they could head out early instead of wasting time on campus.

Others could use an extra hour of sleep in the morning. “I don’t understand why there would be any reason why they need to be at school when it’s a free block,” Bauman said.

Changes in the schedule for next year may allow for more free time, especially with the Friday schedule that gives students the opportunity to manage their own time with their studies.

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