Payson High School Faces Year Of Change

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The bell rang unexpectedly, after what seemed like an even shorter class period than the regular 48-minute classes. We all looked at the clock, and sure enough, the bell rang ten minutes earlier than expected. Unsure of what else to do, the teacher let us out of class, and we received an extremely long passing period between classes, later announced as a "problem with the bells."

Ask anyone involved with Payson High School this year, and they'll tell you that it's different, hectic and confusing. I sit right next to the bulletin board in my study hall class, and at least once a week, the teacher asks me to hang up a new schedule that has been sent to him with still more changes on it.

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Ninth-grader Joey Metcalf studies his copy of "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" in his Longhorn period class.

There have been a lot of changes this year -- some good, some bad. I sat down with PHS Principal Roy Sandoval to talk about them.

One clearly obvious difference is a split lunch for sophomores, juniors and seniors. While there were the initial complaints: "I don't have lunch with my friends," we've all come to realize that having two lunch hours has its benefits.

Traffic at lunchtime in previous years has created a high risk in town, but Sandoval concluded that those in the community aren't as apprehensive of the dangerous and busy time of day.

Restaurants are much calmer, without the lines backed up to the door, giving students time to enjoy their lunch rather than standing in line waiting for it.

Another reason for the split lunch is to keep freshmen on campus for their lunch period.

In the past few years, the level of freshmen failing one or more classes has skyrocketed. The idea of keeping freshmen on campus for lunch is to minimize distractions. Ninth-graders stay in a "Longhorn period" for the first 20 minutes of lunch, in which they use the time for study, organizing backpacks or homework, and doing teamwork activities as a class.

All freshmen are also required to spend two days a week studying the book "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Sean Covey in their Longhorn period.

One Longhorn teacher stated, "[The freshmen] don't like it because it's during their lunch hour. If [Longhorn period] was a class, they wouldn't mind. But they're learning a lot; it's time well spent."

And so far, it seems to be working.

Sandoval said that while still higher than desired, the number of ninth-graders who are failing has dropped considerably.

This also may be due to the new freshmen mentor program, Link Crew. These 50 juniors and seniors have trained and planned many activities for the freshmen, such as Freshmen Orientation Day and a barbecue to encourage them to come to the first football game.

There are also many pending activities for the upcoming months to help ninth-graders prepare for their semester finals.

Another major change has been the remodeling of the main building. Scheduled to be finished Sept. 19, its actual completion is expected closer to Thanksgiving or Christmas. With extra traffic due to construction and a shortened passing period of four minutes, many students are having trouble getting to class on time. We've all agreed that it's pretty challenging to get from one end of the spread-out campus to another in four minutes, carrying a backpack and books, with 800 other students in the way, especially if there's a need to use the restroom or talk to a teacher. And with the various schedule changes, it's not uncommon for the bells to be wrong or not ring at all.

With a few adjustments, the new schedule could be really good for our school.

There needs to be a few tweaks here and there, but once things settle down, this could be a major turnaround for Payson High School.

One thing that wouldn't hurt would be to increase the passing period by one minute, or at least install a warning bell, and make sure it goes off. In time, students and teachers alike will get used to the new schedule, and eventually, we can perfect it so Payson High School can be on its way to even higher standards.

Lisa Bartoli is a junior at Payson High School.

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