The Student Body and Its Discontents: Overly structured Academic Lab results in student frustrations

Student schedules constantly change to accommodate the many inconsistencies of Ac Lab.

Elle Rotter

Student schedules constantly change to accommodate the many inconsistencies of Ac Lab.

Some students sit in their Academic Lab classes staring at their phones, while others hop from class to class, trying to check off things from their to-do lists. Parkway’s Academic Lab, often shortened to Ac Lab, was supposed to provide students a way to conference with teachers, get ahead on school work and finish homework. 

According to a school-wide student survey, students find Ac Lab beneficial, but the lack of importance placed on Ac Lab as a time for study and academic support is disrupting student productivity. 

When Ac Lab was first introduced in January of 2021, while students were registering for courses, it was advertised as being similar to a study hall. As a result, students with heavy course loads, or students who preferred additional time to study or do school work, decided not to take a study hall and are now left feeling duped. Why? There are too many Ac Lab disruptions and a lack of consistency students crave.

Junior Katie Jauss believes that Ac Labs haven’t reached their full potential because the value of Ac Lab isn’t equal to the value of academic classes. 

“I really enjoyed the idea of Ac Lab, at first. It’s something that is beneficial to get your work done when you’re a busy person,” Jauss said. “But I don’t like it because clubs aren’t in the morning [anymore], [so] that takes up time during Ac Labs.” 

Holding club meetings during Ac Lab makes it harder for students to prioritize studying and asking for teacher support. Colleges expect students to be well rounded and highly involved. Allowing extracurriculars to take time out of students’ study periods forces students to make tough decisions and sacrifices. Asking a student to choose between academic support and an extracurricular they enjoy sets the false precedents that only students who already excel academically should be able to do things they enjoy.

Additionally, when Ac Lab is taken away for administrative purposes like half days and assemblies, it is unfair to compare it to a study hall, as none of those conflicts would typically disrupt an entire study hall. While assemblies in prior years required shortened class periods, this year, class ring meetings, counselor meetings and other assemblies occur during Ac Lab. Moreover, students are rarely notified ahead of time when interruptions such as fire drills are planned for Ac Lab time; how can students effectively manage their time when they don’t know how much they will have? 

Finally, the half days and early release days schedule on Wednesdays and Fridays just take Ac Lab out of the schedule instead of making all of the classes shorter and making all class time equal. Even though early release days and half days let students out of school early, time would be better spent working with teachers during Ac Lab instead of working at home alone with the additional hour and a half we get off of school.

All of these problems result in less productive time for students to get work done in Ac Labs. Ac Lab fails to meet the expectations that were set for it at the beginning of the year, forcing many students to make an unfortunate sacrifice. The flaws within Ac Lab must be addressed in order to make the time most effective. 

It needs to be made clearer to students that Ac Lab will be used for different purposes and that it is not always guaranteed twice a week. Ac Labs should not be falsely advertised as a ‘built-in study hall.’ A study hall would provide better guaranteed time for students to study and work on school work. Study halls should be encouraged the same as years past, if assemblies, club meetings and half days will continue to take up Ac Lab time.

However, even if students take a study hall, they will not be able to work with teachers in a small group or individual capacity as easily. To provide students with more opportunities for academic support, club meetings need to return to their rightful time: the mornings. Students would be more likely to attend clubs if they were in the mornings, or maybe even after school. For this to occur, students must be allowed to come into school prior to 7:10 a.m. in order to attend a club meeting. This is a great option for busy students who work or have afternoon sports practices, because then students can finish schoolwork during their free Ac Lab time, instead of staying up later at night to finish their homework.

Furthermore, using Ac Lab for various meetings and assemblies would be less of an inconvenience if the students were emailed or notified a week prior to these meetings so students could plan ahead. The lack of communication to students about the events during Ac Lab has caused missed homework assignments and lower grades on tests due to missed study time that students had planned on having. 

Finally, we need to return to a schedule that takes an equal amount of time out of all classes in order to have assemblies, half days, or early release days instead of just taking away Ac Lab time. In years before, we have just taken out 15 minutes of time in every class and it makes the days shorter. This is a better solution instead of taking away Ac Labs because it ensures that all of the classes are being treated equally.

Overall, 96% of students surveyed believe that Ac Lab is beneficial. However, in order to make Ac Lab benefit students, we must address the flaws of Ac Lab and have students sit down with the Ac Lab development team to ensure this is a valued time that meets the needs of both students and educators.