Should we have summer break?

By: Marcus Lund

I love summer break, and I’m sure you do too. However, is it really as useful as it used to be?

Breaks from schooling are mandatory to both educators and students. It’s the school year’s current format, with one long break in the middle of the year, that is under scrutiny. Summer break was originally started to allow kids to return home during the hottest months to help on the farm. However, with rapid urbanization, and a much lower population farming by hand, this has become increasingly unnecessary.

An increasingly popular alternative to summer break, is a system with more frequent, shorter breaks spread out throughout the year, as opposed to one long one.

So, what are the current pros and cons for this sweet, sweet yearly hiatus?

One pro is how easy it is to cut out meaningful family time during summer break. With more spread out, shorter breaks, a detriment to family structure would occur. Things like finding childcare would become more difficult with parents having to look for babysitters year round.

Spread out breaks would also cause less break overlap between different schools and workplaces, so that families spread out over many occupations and schools would be further separated.

Summer breaks also provide outside-of-school learning opportunities, such as travel and summer camps, that help with character building.

Finally, traditional summer breaks offer a light at the end of the tunnel. Burnt out teachers can have negative effects on students, and vice-versa.

However, the new system has its positives, too. Eliminating a long term break would bring about improved academic achievement. 3 months away from school frequently causes huge gaps in memory and learning, a problem that could be soundly remedied by giving students less lengthy breaks from schooling. This loss of learning affects all children, but it varies by learning level and age.

Summer break can also lead to a lack of engagement, with students frequently getting bored. One expert, Carol Lloyd, says, “If American summer isn’t structured, it’s almost too long.”

I know I want to keep my summer break, but the question is, should I?

What’s better for education, iPads or Textbooks?

By: Isaac Lund

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The textbook industry has long been the backbone of elementary to collegiate learning. Today, with tablets and especially iPads increasing their foothold in American households, a new argument has emerged: Which one is better suited for today’s education needs?

In 2019, book publishers generated 8.38 billion dollars in revenue selling textbooks, an 8.2% decrease from 2018, according to Statista. On the other hand, the iPad made Apple 21.2 billion dollars in revenue, a 12.3% increase from 2018.

Both proponents and opponents of implementing tablets in schools have evidence to support their views.

Supporters of iPad learning most often bring up weight. iPads can hold hundreds of textbooks, worksheets, and tests, without increasing the need for physical storage and backpack weight. According to Mayo Clinic, leaning forward to compensate for the extra weight of heavy backpacks can affect the natural curve of the lower back. E-textbooks also cost less than printed textbooks, and these textbooks can instantly be updated to the newest edition. Furthermore, iPads allow for highlighting and taking notes directly on text, without destroying paper media. Finally, they drastically reduce the need for excess paper, helping save our ever-crumbling environment.

There are many opponents of tablets as well, and they have their fair share of cons to back them up. One such shortcoming evident is that blue light in tablets can cause eye-strain and other forms of agitation, according to the American optometric association. Also, many students, especially in public schools, do not have sufficient internet bandwidth at home to even use tablets for homework. Furthermore, even without paper, one iPad’s manufacturing requires the extraction of minerals and fossil fuels. Adverse health effects from this far exceed those of a textbook, according to the New York Times. Finally, tablets allow for easier cheating.

In my opinion, as long as iPads are properly introduced to schools with measures to combat distractions and cheating, they are far better tools to aid education than backbreaking textbooks that have so long been the go-to.

Why Highland Park should give out seconds

By: Marcus Lund

As a 16-year-old with a high metabolism, I’m always hungry. So, when I head to the lunchroom, I’m ready to eat a nicely sized meal. But, then I’m served 3 chicken nuggets with a side of sadness and beans. After those 250 calories, I’m obviously going to still be hungry, so I head up again, only to be turned back: “No seconds”.

Highland Park seems to think that by offering unpaid lunches, they can’t afford to give two lunches to high schoolers who need more food. However, other schools in the Saint Paul school district who offer free lunches do offer seconds. They implement a system in which they require student pay for seconds, while their first lunch is still free. This allows the school to retain the funds needed to keep up free firsts and free breakfasts, as well as lessen food waste.

In multiple instances, when students bring up their tray and ID for a second lunch, they’re turned away. This happens even though SPPS nutrition services states that second lunches are purchasable for all SPPS students for $4.40, with second breakfast also available for $2.75. Even an extra milk is apparently available for 50 cents if wanted, an option I haven’t even heard of.

Not allowing for seconds at lunch has caused much strife throughout the cafeteria. Methods used to get a second lunch include students using other students’ IDs, students hopping the barrier to avoid scanning their lunch pass, in hopes of only needing to scan once for two lunches. Students have even gone as far as literally running away from lunch staff.

Teenagers need a lot of food, and school lunch shouldn’t be a sad excuse for a real meal. Can Highland Park step it up?

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Pros and cons of homework: How much is too much?

By: Isaac Lund

Homework is a concept that has been utilized by teachers all around the world for decades. It seems to be a tried and true concept, but is it really the best for students?

Many teachers and parents argue that homework is necessary to keep the standards of education high. With the following pros I’m about to list off, you may well agree.

First off, homework helps students develop study skills that they can utilize throughout the rest of their life. It teaches responsibility and organization, as well as enforcing individual learning skills that will come into play more and more as students stop having teachers to look to for help later in life.

Another upside of homework is that it helps to further engrain classroom learning. According to Ed Cooke, a grand master of memory, using a word repetitively is the best way to remember it. This repetition concept carries over to homework as well.

Homework can also help students apply what they learned in different situations, many of which weren’t gone over in class. This helps to improve improvisation.

Homework also helps teachers recognize patterns in academic comprehension within students. This can help give students who are struggling more help, and change teaching approaches if entire classes fail to comprehend the material.

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Although the paragraphs above makes homework look like a fine and dandy tool, it ignores the grievous shortcomings homework has to offer as well.

Obviously, homework decreases leisure time. As I sit here at my desk writing this article, I am squandering time that could be spent building social skills or discovering a new hobby—both are things that will benefit me for much longer than my grade in newspaper class.

Homework also increases stress levels: when the workload becomes too much or too difficult, students lose sleep and motivation. Through this concept, homework is seen as a negative aspect of school by almost all students.

Finally, homework isn’t always effective. A study conducted at the University of Melbourne found that homework in primary school has an effect of around zero, with many students completing work unrelated to class material.

Homework can be greatly beneficial, but it can also be greatly detrimental. Although I do agree that homework should remain to some extent, it must be related to class material, and must create a low stress environment, while still reinforcing prior learning.

How standardized testing affects mental health

By: Mary Koch

Standardized tests are used in many different countries around the world to understand better what students know and what they have learned. It seems like a simple and effective way to see students’ knowledge on different topics, but they don’t always have the most accurate or helpful outcomes.

Tests give students anxiety which can worsen their performances. Many colleges and universities rely on testing when they’re going through applications. With so much riding on these tests, and so much pressure put on students, it shouldn’t be surprising that their work isn’t always their best.

Students who have more responsibilities outside of school, are in advanced classes, or have extracurricular activities have a lower chance of doing well, and many parents and guardians are very concerned with their students performing well. Extra stress from parents and being generally overworked gives students a general dislike for school and the education system.

Cortisol is a hormone the body produces when under stress. In a study done in Texas, students on average actually have 15% more cortisol the morning of a test than they do on a regular day.

Tests’ pressure on students has been proven to increase depression and anxiety. Scores have also caused low self esteem. When low scores are earned, disapproval from parents and guardians, and also themselves, is common, and students often feel like failures or like they’re not good enough.

With students who have a lot to do in and out of school, adding hours of study time a night isn’t good for their wellbeing. Even for students who have more time at home, or are taking easier classes, having to spend all your time studying and practicing for tests is unfair.

Standardized tests aren’t completely accurate. Different circumstances for students should be taken into consideration, so the students have a better chance of succeeding.

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Schools and food waste

By: Marcus Lund

School lunch sometimes sucks. It occasionally either tastes gross, the texture is just off, or there’s something else wrong with the meal. And let’s be real, nobody eats those green beans. So, inevitably, something gets thrown away.

According to a new study from the World Wildlife Foundation, U.S. schools waste 530,000 tons of food yearly, costing around $1.7 billion. This much food in weight is equivalent to 76,000 school buses. That’s a massive problem.

Additionally, the U.S. is much worse at controlling its school food-waste than other developed countries. According to a cafeteria audit from Penn State, food waste from countries like Sweden, Italy, and Spain ranged from an average of 23%-30% of the food served, whereas the U.S. ‘s ranged from 30%-50% of the food served. This means that out of the food that we receive, most students throw away at least a third.

So, how do we combat this problem?

People around the nation have been trying different methods. The Boulder Valley School District in Colorado is one of nine participants in a pilot program launched in 2019, where students go through different measures to decrease their waste. Signs around the cafeteria remind students not to take more than they can eat, and classes are held with farmers to connect students to the food that they throw away.

Food waste audits also create noticeable impacts on waste amounts, with one held by WWF decreasing food waste by 3%, which could lead to $52 million in cost cuts if implemented around the nation.

Before COVID, The Burlington School District in Vermont allowed cartons of milk and other untouched items to be placed on share tables. After school, much of that food is taken home by students or eaten as an after school snack.

Across the nation, many different methods have been used to lessen the amount of wasted food. How will Highland Park step up?

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Shortage of school bus drivers

School has started, and many parents in the Saint Paul School District are dealing with the problem of how to get their kids to and from school due to a school bus driver shortage. The district has reported being short 50 bus drivers, which is affecting the following schools:

  • American Indian Magnet
  • Murray Middle School
  • Wellstone Elementary
  • L’Etoile du Nord Elementary
  • Capitol Hill Magnet School
  • Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion
  • Battle Creek Middle School
  • Central High School
  • Como Park Senior High
  • Harding Senior High
  • Washington Technology Magnet School

The district has said that the four high schools (Central, Harding, Como, and Washington) will be using Metro Transit this year. Students will be given a free bus pass, but Metro Transit reported that they will not be changing their times, nor their locations, and that if students want to get a bus ride, they will have to get one at their available stops. A bus typically comes every 15 minutes, or 30 minutes.

One of the issues students face with the Metro Transit pick up times, is that some have to take very early busses, as there is no option closer to the start of school (for example, one bus picks up at 8:25am, which does not give students time to get to school on time).

With the seven remaining schools (middle and elementary), to try to make this easier for some of the students, they will adjust their start times, and when school ends, to fit with the routes the school bus company is able to cover.

At a press conference, Superintendent Joe Gothard said that this has become a nationwide issue and he’s working with schools to reduce this problem.

Just in the state of Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools, are telling students’ families that they will pay them to drive their kids to school. In the Stillwater school district, KARE 11 has reported that the school district is suing their bus driver contractor for a breach of contract, due to them leaving 20 percent of their routes uncovered.

You may have noticed that Highland Park was not on this list, however, that is not to say students haven’t been affected by the shortage. Routes have had to be combined, due to a lack of drivers, and this has resulted in students being dropped off later. Even with the inconvenience, it is still better than taking Metro Transit.

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Schools impact on students’ mental health

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

Many students struggle with their mental health during school. Some struggle with ADHD, anxiety, depression, etc. These struggles can affect their long-term education and health. Some consequences consist of affecting the students, others, their school, their communities, and the larger society.

According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, students mental health problems can affect a student’s energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, hindering performance. Research suggests that depression is associated with lower grade point averages, and that co-occurring depression and anxiety can increase this association. Depression has also been linked to dropping out of school. 

I asked two students this question: “How has school impacted your energy levels, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism?”

The first student was a freshman, and they said that “School is a waste of my energy levels. It puts a lot of stress on parents and the students.”

The second student was a senior, who said, “Throughout my years of education, I have only found one year to be easy and helpful on my mental health. And that year was elementary school. We learned a little and did not have 7 classes a day. I am extremely stressed out senior year with college applications and my grades.”

Another one of the consequences that mental health issues is that it affects others around you. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, peers, family members, faculty, and staff may be personally affected out of concern for these students. Staff play an important role in educating students. They also play a big part in the students’ lives. I have had teachers that act like my own family.

Depression and anxiety can have harmful effects on relationships and work productivity. Roommates, peers, faculty, and staff also experience profound grief over student suicides and suicidal behavior.

I asked the same two students: “Has a staff member ever affected your education? If so, how? Was it a positive or a negative impact?”

The freshman said, “It was a positive impact because they help me with my work, while being a good educator.”

The senior said, “Most of my years of school I always had a favorite staff member I could go to for advice and help. I feel that staff members play a big role in students’ education.”

According to MPR News, up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year. So, in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, substance abuse. And yet, most children — nearly 80 percent — who need mental health services won’t get them. 

Mental health is an important aspect of school. Whether you struggle with a mental illness or family issues at home, students normally struggle. There will always be something outside of school that distracts the student from their education.

How has COVID-19 impacted students across Saint Paul?

By: Musab Mohamud

While COVID-19 has been sweeping across the globe, schools, religious sites, and sports venues have been shut down. Even that is an understatement, as it seems the world has been put on hold by the fear of this dangerous virus.

Saint Paul Public Schools were postponed in early March of 2020, which according to many students feels like it was many years ago. A quote taken from one student reads, “It feels like we’ve been gone for a lot longer than 18 months. I had to find other ways to communicate with my friends because I couldn’t meet with them in the early months of lockdown.”

Another common theme with the students I interviewed was their fear of getting sick without prior knowledge of the virus. During the first spike of COVID many doctors and health officials were still scrambling to find the cause and nature of the virus. You can only imagine what kind of effect this would have upon an uninformed student base.

Many students across the district suffered lower grades during asynchronous and online school. The principal of Highland Park Senior High had to implement methods of credit recovery, which would ensure every student could receive their credits. One quote that pertains to this subject is: “I really had trouble keeping up with the work we received at the end of freshman year because I had no face-to-face connection with my teacher.” This is a sentiment shared by many students across the school. While online school made things a great deal easier, many students still struggled without a school presence.

Even now, during In-person classes, people are still in resentment of the mask rule and would love to see their friends’ faces. With many different perspectives upon the impact that COVID had upon students, a common answer is a resounding negative impression about it.

7 tips for staying on top of school work

By: Mary Koch & Ella Sutherland

School can be stressful, and it’s even worse when you’re falling behind in your work.

Here are some tips to stay organized this year.

1. Get a planner:
A great way to stay organized is by getting a planner. You can write down your assignments, plan your day, and add notes.

They make your life so much calmer because you won’t forget to do things, and you can make sure you’ll have the time you need throughout the day.

2. Prioritize:
It’s important to have fun, but school’s important too. Try to plan your day so you have time to get your work done first before moving on to the things you want to do.

If you’re able to finish your work, or at least get a good start, you’ll be able to have fun and not worry about when you’ll get things done. Your day can be stress free if you can make the decision to do the boring parts first.

3. Plan Ahead:
Going along with prioritizing and getting a planner, you should always plan when you want to get things done. If you don’t wait until the last minute you won’t be rushed, so you can do your best work.

Instead of planning on finishing assignments right before the due date, you could make your own due date, so you can make sure everything is turned in on time.

Making sure to study for tests early is a good way to get better grades. Don’t try to learn everything the night before when all you’ll really do is stress yourself out. Instead you could find time to study days before, so you really understand the topic.

4. Stay Focused:
Not everybody can focus in the same environment. Some people need complete silence, and some people do best when they’re listening to music.

Find out what works best for you, and try to use those things to your advantage. If you know you can get a better grade on a test while you have music playing, you can ask a teacher, so you can do what’s best for you.

If you’re not able to focus when you have people talking around you, move somewhere you won’t be as easily distracted.

5. Make Your Work Fun:
Not all school work has to be boring. You can make it fun by doing things like doing homework or studying with your friends. You can talk and help each other while still doing your work.

Another way to make homework fun is by eating a piece of candy for every assignment you finish. You can also decorate your notes and use fun colors.

6. Ask Questions:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, your teacher will be happy to help out. You can ask in, before, or after class, or you could email your teacher privately and set up a time to meet.

Classes are so much easier when you actually understand the material, so speak up because teachers are there to help.

7. Organize:
If you’re able to keep your work and life organized, you’ll have a better chance of staying on top of your work. Whether you rely on a planner, or you just write things down anywhere, there are always ways to stay more organized.

Sticking to schedules or routines helps with knowing what you need to do and when. Having a designated spot to write down any homework or upcoming tests makes it easier to plan ahead and do things on time.

Those were just a few ways to keep your schoolwork stress free, and there are many other ways. Not everything works for everyone, but hopefully these will help keep this year organized.

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