Hall Sweeps: Why? How? What Comes Next?

Hall Sweeps are a new effort to encourage students to get to class on time.

Thomas Jefferson High School

Hall Sweeps are a new effort to encourage students to get to class on time.

Mae McDermott, Staff Reporter

Tardiness is a problem in countless high schools–it is almost inherent to people’s perception of what high school is. There are stragglers. There are wanderers. And at some point or another, each us of has likely been among them.

However, at CHS, a high school which is truly sprawling and yet still seems to be straining to contain the student population, lateness to classes seems to have become more than a dismissible detail of the high-school environment. As students’ laxness regarding the school’s regimented schedule has come to include both mere dawdling and utter defiance, both of which hinder the effectiveness of available class time, a new sort of institution has been implemented to enforce timely attendance: hall sweeps.

Since the beginning of fourth quarter the rules have become familiar: as the sound of the late bell, teachers have instruction to lock their doors, and students who are not in class at that time will be “swept” to the auditorium, where they will receive a “strike” of sorts, a special pass, and a few words from a staff member or administrator, before being sent back to class. This week the sweeps have occurred daily, after each period; however, in coming weeks they will become random.

Principal Stephan Whiting explained that after previous measures did not quicken students’ paces, these sweeps became necessary. “We started out with [being] more of a presence in the hallways, teachers getting outside [their] doors, greeting students,” said Whiting, “and kids still weren’t getting to class. It’s this teacher-student thing… when you’ve got kids kind of rolling in, and you’ve got to start over, or you’ve got to stop… it’s a disruption, and so teachers were having a hard time getting their lessons going.”

As a new school feature, the hall sweeps have naturally spurred both praise and criticism. Students’ immediate reactions seemed negative. With the first-and-last-ten-minute rule already in place, preventing students from leaving at all within the first and last ten minutes of class, CHS students instantly seemed frustrated by the prospect of having less time to ready themselves for class and take care of obligations. Many remain doubtful that the hall sweeps will be effective.

“I think [they have] gotten some kids to class faster,” said sophomore Annie Mullin, “but for other kids I am pretty sure they don’t care and won’t think much of it.” Many students believe that requiring students to go to the auditorium will contradictorily waste more time, and Mullin said that she is sure that “some students will be thankful they are missing more class by going… to get checked off as late.”

At least partial success of the hall sweeps; however, has already become evident in several ways. Contrary to what many students pictured upon hearing of this new development–masses of innocent, unlucky students being “swept away” and lectured–very few kids have actually had to retrieve a pass from the auditorium so far.

Mullin remarked that she has noticed “the halls clearing faster during transitions, especially at intersections that usually have much more traffic.” These aspects of the sweeps are pros that cannot be denied–hallway traffic and tardiness are frustrating problems for everyone, and the sweeps so far seem to have diminished both.
More changes can be expected to develop to balance the hall sweeps in coming years. Responding to numerous concerns about the first-and-last-ten-minute rule, Whiting suggested that, come next school year, this rule may be revised or dropped altogether. “Some teachers have brought up the fact that [they would] rather have kids go at the beginning [of class] so they come back and they’re ready, rather than waiting ten minutes [and missing] instruction.” Hypothetically, students will have the same amount of time, then, to do what must be done without being tardy.

In the distance is the looming possibility of a change in the school’s atmosphere. Will the small action of locking the classroom door have bigger, possibly negative implications for the climate of CHS? Whiting admitted that “it is a different feel,” but the point of this measure, Whiting explained, is not to antagonize, not to crack down, and not to box kids in. “I just think… this is a place of business… what you’re learning is important… and [you] need to be there. It’s really trying to get everybody on the same page.”

Though the ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for hall sweeps, there is also a hope that some unity will arise which will foster warmer student-staff relationships and contribute to a more eased environment.

“Most every kid here does exactly what they need to do when they need to do it,” said Whiting. “But sometimes we forget why we’re here; sometimes we forget with all the things going on that we’re still here to get something accomplished.” As we are early on in this strategy, only time will tell what the results will be. However, there is hope that more regulation will result in a less heated, healthier atmosphere in which one can immerse oneself during the school day with a bit more calm.