Are those weekends working? Homework-Free Weekend Revisited

Abhisar Mittal, Contributing Writer

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School. Extracurriculars. Homework. Rise. Repeat. This is what life has become for a large portion of the Morris Hills student body. To say that balancing these parts of life is overwhelming would certainly be a gross understatement.

Morris Hills Regional District takes its students’ well-being seriously, and as result, instituted “Homework-Free Weekends” throughout the school year. “Three years ago, Mr. MacNaughton, the principal of Morris Knolls, and I were having multiple conversations about the amount of stress and anxiety that students in the district were under due to the amount of work and the expectations that were placed upon them from a multitude of arenas: academic, extracurricular, athletic, social, family, or community,” recalled Morris Hills principal,  Mr. Toriello. “We wanted to look at different ways that we could address this issue,” he added. That conversation, along with the lingering issue of student mental health, struck the spark that kindled into school policy.

Having been in existence for two academic school years now, the policy attempts to liberate students in the district from their fast-paced, busy lives for one weekend each marking period, for a total of four weekends per school year. “I think the initiative has been successful. However, there are always ways to improve an initiative. For instance, we got feedback from teachers that the weekends disrupted their curriculum around quarterlies,” Mr. Toriello said. “The administration then re-examined it for this year and chose weekends around breaks: Teachers’ Convention, Winter Recess, President’s Day, and Spring Break.” When asked about the continuation of the policy, he said, “I would like to try to connect the weekends to activities which bring the entire school community—parents, students, and others—together to celebrate those weekends. We may try to run some events here which would allow families to connect.”

While the initiative may seem flawless, some AP teachers do believe that these weekends slow the progression of their curricula, which are aimed towards a fixed exam date.  Mr. Toriello said, “I completely understand that AP teachers are under a tight deadline. However, when looking at the calendar of a school year, the homework free weekends only take up 4 of the approximately 35 total weekends.” He added, “In the long run, I actually do think that it will do more good to have that break. Even from a biological standpoint, it will help the students perform better come the test day if they have that time to relax.”

Response from the students at Morris Hills has been mixed. Senior Katie Champagne does not like the new policy, saying that “they make not homework weekends even more stressful.” Junior Max Nikolovski said “The weekends are relaxing, but they can cause more work to be piled on the next week.”