If you ask a random group of La Cañada High School students about their feelings on any given topic on campus- Challenge Success, Red Ribbon Week, the newly-installed Wellness Center- you’ll get a wide range of opinions in response. But an issue that has been particularly controversial among staff and students alike is the role of LCHS’s STEP period. Many have questioned what, if any, benefits the thirty-five-minute block of time provides to the student body.
Some point to the fact that most STEPs are unproductive- after all, many students arrive burnt out from block period and fail to make a meaningful use of their time. Others, however, bring up the point that STEP can be a valuable opportunity for enrichment and support. In many of LCHS’s Fine Arts programs, for instance, they are utilized as rehearsal and practice times. Students can also seek out academic support in subjects where they struggle. Both viewpoints have merit; however, it’s clear that STEP, in its present construction, is in need of reform.
Mr. Cartnal himself stated, “I have seen [STEP] decline in effectiveness across the last ten years or so. Many staff members wish to see a change”.
What could that change look like? Keeping in mind that a certain number of instructional minutes are required by the state of California (unfortunately, we can’t just make lunch longer), the options vary. One suggestion from AP Biology teacher Mr. Hainey would be to grant students more freedom of choice when it comes to filling that period of time. Towards the end of the day, students could obtain academic help in whichever subjects they needed, scanning ID cards in order to validate their attendance. For those within Fine Arts programs, they could report to their respective classes without the hassle of signing in and out. Another suggestion, proposed by Mr. Cartnal (one of the original establishers of the modern STEP program) would be to encourage more classes that involve enrichment but also provide much-needed downtime within our schedules- he pointed to Mr. Powers’ Beatles STEP as an example.
Amidst varying opinions on the topic, our administration has made considerable efforts towards soliciting student input. Assistant Principals Mrs. Kalb and Mr. Ito both pointed to the student-centered Schedule Review Committee as a means to facilitate productive dialogue surrounding STEP and other related issues. Though the application period for this specific committee has passed, there are still options for students to make their voices heard. Students Speak sessions, led by Mr. Cartnal, are available in the iMac lab on a monthly basis, and provide a forum for 9-12 students to communicate their opinions on current LCHS issues. They’re available twice a month…during, you guessed it, the last Wednesday and Thursday STEPs. Regardless of your take on the issue, in the end, we can work together to find a solution that benefits all of us.