Senior Ana Shaffi is very frustrated. As president of the Random Acts of Kindness club, she feels the pressure of trying to accomplish the goals of her club with very little time to meet with its members.
“We had a lot of great ideas last year, but we didn’t have enough meetings to actually get them done. The school doesn’t give us the necessary time, and not everyone can meet outside of school because of other commitments,” she said. “You want to make a difference within the school, but if you want to do it, you have to do it outside of school.”
Unfortunately, this is the fate that many clubs at Woodgrove face.
Currently, clubs meet during the homeroom portion of the 3rd and 6th block FLEX, only allotting clubs a 35-40 minute meeting about once every two weeks. However, there are three different club rotations: green days, blue days, and white days. This means most clubs only get to meet once every four to six weeks.
“How infrequently a club meets has an impact on student commitment because clubs only meet once every few months,” said Mrs. Andrea Elbaum, who sponsors National Honor Society, Green Team, and Random Acts of Kindness.
Junior Erin Stitt believes that not nearly enough time is devoted to clubs.
“I am in Math and Science Honor Societies, as well as SCA and PEER. I know that it’s hard for the advisors to find a time for us to meet and because of this, we occasionally have to meet in the mornings or during open lunch,” said Stitt.
“Some schools don’t do club time during the day, [others] only meet in the morning or after school,” said Head of Guidance Ms. Geri Fiore. “I think the more that groups get together, the more cohesive they will be, and there will be more time for the goal to be achieved, but we also have to value the instructional time.”
Yet, transportation presents a major issue. Since Woodgrove is so isolated, only students who drive to school can stay after or come early, provided they don’t have any other prior commitments, which many do. But most of those who ride the bus don’t have any other way of getting to and from school.
“It’s all about transportation. Students can’t stay after school,” said Elbaum. “At a typical school, students can stay after, but there are still conflicts. Students are splitting their time between different clubs and activities.”
Even school administrators agree that Woodgrove lacks time for clubs to meet.
“Yes [Woodgrove is lacking club time], due to the fact that we have a large amount of clubs. The time that they need is hard to accomplish with a gap of a month in between meetings,” said activities coordinator Ms. Kelly Hines.
Upon researching, however, we discoverd that other schools in the county have many more clubs than Woodgrove. Loudoun County High School has 60 clubs, Potomac Falls has 73, and Briar Woods has 96, while Woodgrove has only 37. Rock Ridge, only in its second year, has 106 clubs. Obviously, regardless of the amount of clubs, there must be a way to allocate adequate time for clubs in the schedule.
Some feel we should look to the schedules of other schools in the area, such as Loudoun Valley’s. They hold club meetings every Friday morning from 9:05 to 9:35.
Loudoun Valley senior Brant Goings said, “Valley has a variety of clubs, so there’s definitely an opportunity to do whatever you want. I was in Loudoun Valley Service Initiative, Chess Club, and Latin Club over the past four years. I’ve had the opportunity to try out as many clubs as I wanted to.”
Woodgrove tried having morning club meetings on every other Friday in the 2013-2014 school year; however, the school switched back to the FLEX schedule the following year.
“I have fond remembrances when every Friday was a club day. We worked really hard Monday through Thursday, but on Friday every class was shortened by 10 or 12 minutes,” said Ms. In Sim. “It’s similar to the open lunch excitement on Friday.”
Students have their own ideas about when the best time for clubs would be. Senior Hannah Delmonte thinks that the time taken up with FACEtime would be better used for clubs.
“We would actually be spending our time doing something we care about. We can accomplish FACEtime’s mission of building connections among Woodgrove students through clubs,” said Delmonte. “If people really like FACEtime, then we can make a FACEtime club.”
There are alternatives that could maximize club meeting time, while not interfering with any instructional time, such as devoting every Thursday or Friday FLEX to club time. That would allow for two clubs to meet every week, which means, with three club rotations, each club would meet at least once every two weeks.
But whatever we end up doing, something needs to change.
“In schools that have really strong club systems, kids get connected over clubs,” said Ms. Tammy Pyle. “Everybody wants to get involved. It’s that club culture that we’re missing.”
While Woodgrove administration is open to students introducing and starting new clubs, the amount of time devoted to clubs is insufficient to ensure a strong “club culture” at this school. And it’s the absence of that “club culture” that is detrimental to the success of Woodgrove clubs.