Alternatives receive mixed reviews


After October Break, students expressed differing opinions regarding the return of Alternatives trips.

Dean of Students Joe Chodl sees Alternatives as having various positive objectives. “Alternatives has got a whole bunch of different objectives. One of them is to help integrate new students because it’s at the beginning of the year, one of them is to mix the students in the grades to try and build relationships, and another is to to try to have students learn something outside of a normal classroom-based experience,” Chodl said. He hopes that some of that has happened: that the relationships formed have now extended passed the trip and that the skills learned from the trip will transfer somewhere else for the students.

Principal Jack Phillips believes that there is “real value in getting outside your comfort zone and seeing something new,” and thinks that “powerful learning can happen” during that time period. Phillips said he is still getting familiar with the program and discovering whether or not that learning does happen.

Contrary to how most people view Alternatives, Phillips believes that one of the objectives of the trips isn’t necessarily to have fun. “What I hope is,” said Phillips, “that we provide fun experiences that provide X, whether that’s service learning, bonding, new experiences and new kinds of learning.”

Emily Gossett (’16) initially felt uneasy going on her Alternative because she had no close friends on her trip. However, she was amazed by how she developed strong friendships with her peers. “It was nice because I had some of them in my classes later, so then when I saw them in class again I knew them and it was like I got a chance to make good connections with them,” Gossett said.

While some students were fond of Alternatives this year, others believed that their time would have been better spent at school. “There was a lot of time during the Alternative where I felt that my time doing work would have been more valuable,” Tara Advaney (’15) said. She felt as though people on her trip were not happy during their trip. “About 75 percent of the day people are unhappy, or sad and willing to do something else on their Alternative while only about 25 percent of the time they’re happy,” she said.

In previous years, Alternatives usually ran during the fall; in the 2011-2012 school year, they ran in the spring.  However, Chodl said that the administration saw that it created a disruption for the second semester. “It didn’t work very well with the flow of the second semester. It was in the days leading up to spring break so it meant that people were away from school for three weeks it was a difficult time to be away for three weeks,” Chodl said. This left students with only a couple of weeks until the Advanced Placement exams. This is a time where classroom time is needed, Chodl said. This led the administration to bring it back to the fall in order to help with the flow of second semester.

Both Adele Cohen (’15) and Advaney were not pleased with the timing of the trips and would prefer it if they occurred in the spring. Cohen believes that “it was too long of a break from school,” as Alternatives directly lead to October break.

Advaney would also like to have Alternatives occur during the spring as she believes that “kids are very stressed at the beginning of the year.”

The administration is planning on reviewing Alternatives in order to make a decision on the timing of next year’s trips. “We’ll see at the end of the year how the spring looked without Alternatives,” Chodl said. The administration have sent out a survey to students to try to improve next year’s trips. The survey will give them individual feedback about each trip in order to facilitate the process of planning Alternatives next year. The changes could range from tweaking and altering small trip details to completely replacing the trips.