“Arena scheduling” came to Staples in the early 1970s. It was an era when our high school was in the forefront of many things: experimental English classes. A real “Alternatives” program. A sexuality course that left nothing to the imagination.
“Arena” — the opportunity for students to choose not only their classes, but their periods and teachers for the upcoming year — was a no-brainer. It was a little bit of college on a high school campus. It embodied choice, freedom, maturity.
Over the years it also became chaotic and controversial. Students learned to game the system. Parents involved themselves in the process. Stress levels rose; tears were shed.
Eliminating arena has been discussed for years. As computer scheduling became more efficient, pressure to end arena grew. But arena always had its defenders.
On Tuesday night, the Board of Education heard arguments for retaining arena.
It provides students with the opportunity to take 2 or 3 more classes with teachers they like, or have connected especially well with.
It enables students to avoid taking another class with instructors whose teaching styles are not compatible with students’ particular learning styles.
It enables students to select their periods (for example, taking tougher classes when they’re more alert — though more realistically, they opt for free periods at the beginning or end of the day).
It helps teenagers prepare for the college course selection process.
But the arguments for replacing arena with computer scheduling were more compelling.
Students could have several weeks in the spring to meet with guidance counselors to tailor their schedules to their course needs.
The hectic “conflict resolution” period at the start of school would be eliminated, allowing counselors to really help students.
Most colleges these days utilize online computer course selection themselves.
And, of course, complaints and worries about the “unfairness” of a “bad” arena time would end.
The Board of Education voted 6-1 to end arena scheduling.
Tellingly, there was virtually no student or parent outcry in favor of keeping arena, either before or during the Board of Ed discussion.
The ’70s are officially dead.