Zero options for zero hour

Lack of zero hour options makes extracurriculars inaccessible


Anya Panday

Park offers more than 160 courses in 12 different academic departments. With so many options, it’s hard for students to pick just three to six a year to pursue, especially when many electives take up both semesters each year and have multiple years worth of material. If you add on the four required electives students are required to take as underclassmen, it’s hard for many students that want to be involved in multiple facets of Park’s student life to fit extracurriculars or fun electives into their school schedules. For many, the answer to this was taking a zero hour elective. A zero hour elective, which is often offered for music classes, is a before school class option for students who are willing to add an extra period to their schedule to fit another elective in. But, this school year Park got rid of the zero hour option for Concert Choir, and they’re not planning to offer zero hour as an option to students next year unless registration for zero hour meets a certain quota. The new restrictions on zero hour are not only unfair, but make extracurriculars more inaccessible.

In high school, it’s nice to get involved in extracurriculars as an underclassman, both so you can establish yourself in these environments early on, but also to help you meet new people and find new hobbies as you transition into high school. However, freshman and sophomores are limited to two year-long electives or four semester-long electives every year due to their required elective courses. This is frustrating because many underclassmen also try to meet the suggested goal of taking two years of a world-language as an underclassman because it’s harder to start learning a language as a junior. This leaves many underclassmen with only one or two elective slots left open, so it’s hard to join electives where they can meet new people, establish themselves in a community such as band, Echo or choir or simply have time to do something they’re passionate about during the school day. Zero hour used to allow underclassmen to take music electives in a more flexible way that still allowed them to check off all of their required electives, but now students have to choose between the convenience of doing their required electives during the school year or doing electives they’re genuinely interested in.

Furthermore, a lack of zero hour classes makes it harder to become fully involved in Park’s community or explore all of Park’s resources. I am an involved student at Park, and part of that is exploring the four-year world language program, joining the music program and being an editor on the school newspaper. Even while being involved in these ways, I often wish I could be involved in other extracurriculars such as Park’s Pottery or Woodworking classes. I also am pursuing Park’s highly-advertised International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program, which allows you to fully explore the resources Park offers as an IB school. The IB program requires you to take certain classes, three of which are electives. Because of my involvement in Park’s community and my exploration of their resources, I’m already overbooked for electives and will have to double up on multiple classes in some of my periods. I, and other involved students at Park, rely on the zero hour options to help us add some flexibility into our schedule to fit another elective — whether it be required or simply just fulfilling. Because of the lack of zero hour options for Concert Choir this year, I now have to pay to take Health online in order to fit choir into my schedule. 

The difficulty that comes with fitting more electives into your schedule turns many away from the prospect of pursuing programs like the IB Diploma or getting involved in music or Echo. This not only hurts the Park community by creating less involvement within students, but it hurts the competitiveness of these student’s college applications. The truth is, colleges are becoming more competitive, and with that comes the added pressure for students to push themselves to the limit — especially in the sense of being involved in extracurriculars and advanced programs. By making it harder to be involved in these options, Park is effectively hurting their students’ competitiveness in the college application process.

Clearly, zero hour is essential to many different kinds of students. So, why was it removed as an option this school year? It seems as though it’s an issue of enrollment due to the new quotas for registration next year. For zero hour choir to happen next year, at least 20 people have to enroll. That may not seem like a lot of people, until you acknowledge the lack of advertising of zero hour options. It’s not listed on the course registration forms students fill out, let alone advertised on the course catalog or informational meetings. Most students are shocked to find out there are zero hour options for music classes, and they often wish they knew sooner so they could’ve taken advantage of that option. A simple solution for Park is to advertise zero hours more by putting the options into students’ course registration and educating students fully on their registration options each year.