Reviving JAG

21st Century Journalism Students Opinion Pieces: Why JAG is an important piece to a BV West student’s schedule

Alli Kushner, Guest Writer

Remember the upbeat hallways, filled pods, study groups, and chattering students? That’s the ambiance that JAG brought. It feels like an eternity ago since JAG was a part of a typical day at BVW. As if learning in a pandemic wasn’t hard enough, students now have limited people to eat lunch with and collaborate with on school work.
Post-lockdown school looks far different from what it did before – most notably blocking the social scene that students looked forward to during the school days. The decline in social interaction is aligned with the decline in academic performance that many teachers have shared. The Blue Valley district stresses the importance of having strong mental health, yet limits the amount of time that students have to visit with their friends and take breaks from classwork.
At Blue Valley West specifically, students miss JAG more than the administration understands. It gave students time to eat lunch, converse with friends, receive help from teachers, and complete homework. The initial reason for getting rid of JAG was to meet the requirements for minutes of students in class. Now that school starts 5 minutes earlier and ends 5 minutes later, that could become a permanent change in order to bring JAG back.
The current lunch scene is unsanitary and the bleachers in the gym are never cleaned. There are stains and smudged food that have been there for multiple weeks that have clearly not even been attempted to clean. Additionally, the people that students can eat with are limited to who is in their 4th or 5th block class. An open JAG time would allow for students to eat with their friends that they choose versus eating in the unsanitary gym and packed cafeteria. Spreading out amongst the school would definitely help to not only prevent the spread of COVID-19 but it would also give students the opportunity to eat with people who they hang out with outside of school.
The hour-long JAG had so many benefits of which would be even more crucial now. It gave students and teachers time to take a break while also being productive by prepping for class or studying for an upcoming test. Getting to sit with friends and talk about school and other things was a highlight of many students’ days. Ever since lockdown, social life has changed drastically from what it was before. After missing large portions of two grades in high school has taken a huge toll on character development that can only occur through in-person experiences.
Allowing students to work around the school with anyone that they wanted to would let people make new friends and catch up with the ones they have already made. Some may argue that social distancing guidelines would not be met by allowing students to collaborate freely about the school. But, a large portion of the school staff and students have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or are eligible to receive the vaccine when they feel comfortable. Especially since masks are still required in school, social distancing is not as crucial as it would be without masks. Seats in classrooms are definitely not 6 feet apart, so why should sitting in pods be any different? The combination of so many social and emotional changes in such a short time has seriously harmed the mental health of the American teen population specifically. Mental health disorders have skyrocketed ever since the initial lockdown. CDC studies have concluded that in June of 2020, 40% of adults in the United States above age 18 have admitted to having serious depression-related symptoms and teen suicide rates increasing by 250% from October 2019 to October of 2020. One may wonder what these studies have to do with giving students more freedom in school and here’s the answer: when teens feel like they are not alone and they have people who count on them, they are far less likely to have feelings taking their own life. By giving students time to refresh their minds and have laid-back study time with their friends they will be able to make more bonds and develop deeper relationships.
For these reasons, JAG time and similar breaks should be brought back to the Blue Valley district and implemented in high schools around the world. The benefits of balancing breaks and productivity are crucial to learn earlier rather than later, which can be easily learned when students are given time to choose between the two. The social environment that schools should provide would be greatly improved with this suggestion. Before taking a stance on this topic, think about being in the shoes of high school students who have missed out on so much this past year and see what impact that has on forming an opinion. The matter of a student’s mental and emotional health should be the top priority.