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Smart lunch: killing club life

Smart Lunch is easily the most radical, controversial change administration has introduced this year, if not in all of Leesville history. The new program has had a paradigm shift on what students do during their lunch period.

Now faced with an hour of free time, students can eat their lunch, attend tutorials for help in classes, and go to club meetings.

Overall, SMART lunch seems to be a success. Administration definitely likes it, and the teachers and students I’ve talked to also seem to enjoy it.

And I must admit I can’t completely separate myself from that group. Having an hour for lunch, and being to go off with any of your friends is a very liberating feeling, however, as with all things, this comes at a cost.

SMART lunch is killing club life. Before I give a sort of case study, I’d like to preface this by saying I don’t expect anything to change from writing this. I recognized that my situation is on the end of the spectrum and that a significant percentage of students don’t participate in clubs at all.

I am writing this in memorandum. My years in Political club, Speech & Debate, Executive Council and many other clubs have been some of the most formative moments in my highschool career, and thusly life. I’ve made great friendships and shared some of my best memories with those friends, exploring my interests in those classrooms after school.

I firmly believe that everyone could benefit from an environment like that, and Leesville’s diverse club life is something I always prided my school upon.

There are two major ways in which SMART lunch is hurting clubs: scheduling and time.

When SMART lunch was designed, a master calendar was put together mandating which clubs would meet on which days, so that everything would fit and work together. While everything does “fit,” this schedule is more of a source of conflict for many students in several clubs.

Club dates were organized based on department, however, this method placed no value in organizing the clubs by any other metric than the advisor’s department. Because of this. similar clubs, having advisors in same department, end up meeting at the same times.

For example, Political club, Speech & Debate, and Model UN are all run by social studies teachers. Likewise, they all attract a particular kind of student, one interested in public speaking and current events.

Students, such as myself and many friends I know, who last year participated in a variety of these clubs now may be forced to forsake them and focus only on the one. My case is most severe: As President of Political club, LD Captain of Speech & Debate, and Treasurer of NHS (also meeting on Thursday) I cannot simply drop a club, nor do I want too.

So I’m in a constant balancing act, trying to make everything work, and if one meeting doesn’t conflict with another, then there’s an officer’s meeting, or something else to get in the way. This is a constant demon of stress on my shoulder and to everyone else it just seems I’m shirking my responsibilities.

By no means am I trying to play the victim, and maybe you could say I spread myself too thin, but that’s just been my experience, as well as many of my fellow club members, and it wasn’t a problem last year.

The real nail in the coffin, however, is time. Simply put, SMART lunch is not conducive to having meaningful club activities. There’s a reason Executive Council still meets after school; you can’t get anything done in 30 minutes.

Just at the last Political club meeting we were discussing ISIS. The meeting opened up with some clips that expounded on the situation in the Middle East that was meant to provide a basis for the unaware before going into a group discussion. The only problem is by the time everyone sits down, the attendance gets passed around, and the clips ended, there was a good 5-10 minutes to talk. Half the club needed to rush at part B to go to another meeting anyway.

Gone are hour-long heated debates after school. That’s what Political Club’s meant to be, what it was, and why I’ve been on it for four years. With Smart Lunch that’s a distant memory.

In Speech & Debate, I’m supposed to be training people who were novices at competitive debate to compete in November. That can’t happen in 30 minutes twice a month, so we’ll also have to end up meeting after school. At which point I say, “What’s the point of SMART lunch?”

I do concede that attendance is up universally, particularly with underclassmen. Upperclassmen attendance, however, is the exact opposite. People simply are not willing to give up their off-campus lunch. It is good that the underclassmen are taking an active part is clubs more than ever, which I presume is a result of meeting during lunch, but surely the freshmen class itself plays some role.

The only problem is that it’s just more faces getting less done. The freshmen aren’t experiencing the rich club experience that I had going up through high school.

That very experience is what the Leesville community pays for the price of SMART lunch. Administration believe it’s worth it. As I’m sure most upperclassmen, who’ve now tried both sides, do too.

It’s just a shame. Part of what made Leesville great will never be the same.

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