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The SPOKE

The SPOKE

Day 9: News briefs

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By Aren Framil, Fudail Ahmed, Audrey Kim, Lexi Lin, Emily Scheer and August Zangrilli, Co-News Editor and Staff Reporters

With the upcoming new year, new events and changes are in development. Read more about the proposed new 2024-25 school year schedule for Conestoga, a Pennsylvania Senate bill that would require armed guards at every state school entity, Science Olympiad holding the Battle at Valley Forge and the Mini-THON planning committee organizing the DonorDrive Push Week.

Scheduling committee plans new 2024-25 schedule

By Audrey Kim and Lexi Lin, Staff Reporters

On Dec. 7, the Conestoga scheduling committee presented a plan to the TESD education committee, proposing significant changes to Conestoga’s 2024-25 school year schedule.

The plan consists of a hybrid block schedule: replacing the current six-day cycle with a five-day cycle, having three lunch blocks instead of four and making Wednesdays and Thursdays four-period days with an hour-long “Lunch and Learn” block.

Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays would have eight periods. The only change to these days would be Conestoga removing lunches that make students leave in the middle of their class to eat lunch. The committee plans to achieve this through implementing three approximately 40-minute lunch periods instead of four.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, students would have four 82-minute periods, attending their odd classes on one day and their even classes on the other.

Lunch and Learn would take place on four-period days, allowing students an hour of time in which they could choose to eat lunch, meet with teachers, do work, hold club meetings or do other activities in the school. Students would be able to choose between “A” or “B” lunch, each 30 minutes long.

“I think the Lunch and Learn is an exciting opportunity for all teachers and students at Conestoga,” said Christopher Nation, music teacher and member of the scheduling committee. “It’s going to give us opportunities to do a lot more things, both curricular and extracurricular.”

 

During the Dec. 7 education committee meeting, Conestoga principal Dr. Amy Meisinger said that the new schedule would necessitate changes to the current two day-a-cycle and three day-a-cycle classes due to the nature of a five-day cycle. Students taking three day-a-cycle classes would follow a two-week schedule, alternating between “Garnet” and “Grey” Days.

During the first week, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday would be Garnet Days, and Tuesday and Friday would be Grey Days. During the second week, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday would be Grey Days while Tuesday and Friday would be Garnet Days. Students would attend their three day-a-cycle class on Garnet or Grey Days depending on the class.

The committee also discussed other ideas, such as restructuring the library, removing the lockers and adding additional security staff. According to Meisinger in the Dec. 7 meeting, Lunch and Learn would allow for opportunities to support students, such as providing spaces to do yoga and time to meet with counselors.

“The scheduling committee has been meeting for the past year with especially an emphasis on mental health for students and providing opportunities for collaboration,” Nation said.

With the possible change, some students, such as junior Desika Arumugam, fear that they will lose focus in class due to the length of 82-minute periods. 

“I personally would like to stay with the regular schedule, especially because I can’t imagine sitting through some of these classes for over an hour,” Arumugam said. “I get that some part of it is supposed to be homework time, but I just couldn’t sit in one class for that long.”

Others, such as sophomore Anthony Zhang, feel that the new schedule will bring advantages to the school environment with more time for socializing and teacher meetings.

“I think expanding lunchtime is in general a good thing because I feel like currently not enough time is given to socialize,” Zhang said. “There’s not a lot of time on the schedule to be able to interact with teachers unless you have a free period.”

The scheduling committee plans to present the 2024-25 Program of Studies, aligned to the proposed schedule, for approval at the Jan. 2, 2024 school board meeting.

State senate passes bill requiring at least one armed guard in every Pa. school entity

By Aren Framil, Co-News Editor

Pennsylvania Sen. Mike Regan introduced Senate Bill 907 on Aug. 29, which sought to amend the Public School Code of 1949 and require the employment of armed security personnel at every school in the state. On Dec. 13, the state Senate approved an amended version of the bill that would require each school entity — defined as a school district, an intermediate unit, an area career and technical school, a charter school or a private residential rehabilitative institution — to have at least one armed security personnel. 

Regan believes the addition of trained armed personnel would bolster security in light of the national increase in gun-related violence in schools.

“Since Sandy Hook, there have been more than 200 shootings resulting in fatalities at K-12 schools across the country,” Regan wrote in an op-ed news release. “And we are learning from these events that attackers, like the one in Nashville, Tenn., in March of this year, are targeting schools with lax security standards.”

Some advocacy groups have expressed their disagreement with the bill, such as gun violence prevention organization CeaseFirePA. The organization published a Dec. 13 “Letter of Opposition” on its website urging Pennsylvania senators to vote against the bill by arguing that it would create “a more intimidating and militarized learning environment for students.” The organization cited that Pa. schools are already authorized to employ armed personnel and that imposing a mandate without a specific source of funding could cause economic strain on schools.

The bill is currently under consideration in the state House of Representatives.

During the TESD school board’s Nov. 20 meeting, ad hoc legislative committee member Susan Audrain said that the board is monitoring the bill, but she believes the district’s existing safety measures are effective without the addition of armed guards.

“We’ll watch and wait to see if this bill passes, but we need to look at all of the ways in which school shootings can be reduced,” Audrain said during the meeting. “Here at T/E we have had numerous actions we’ve taken in order to provide a safe school environment.”

According to Dr. Chris Groppe, director of safety and student services, the district has made significant strides in the past few years in regards to safety. These developments include the installation of secure vestibules as the single point of entry for all T/E schools, crisis identification and prevention teams at every school, upgraded digital check-in systems and the reevaluation of lockdown drill language and procedure.

“We take a two-pronged approach that incorporates both the physical safety aspect — the police and fortification and all that — but also equally, if not more important, student mental health and wellness and helping ensure that kids feel connected in school,” Groppe said.

Although the district does not regularly station armed personnel at schools, it has collaborated with local law enforcement to train teachers and staff on how to react, direct students and inform them of emergency police procedures should an emergency situation arise.

“We have a really good relationship with Tredyffrin Township police and Easttown police. They’ve been in our buildings a lot, they know what the schools are like and they know us,” Groppe said. “In every single building I heard the sense of relief from the staff that they had when hearing what the police would do in the case of an active shooter.”

The district currently employs unarmed security staff, who are stationed at every school. Groppe believes that a primary duty of any school security — armed or unarmed — is to personally connect with and support students.

“The emphasis on the (security officer) training is to get to know the kids in your building. Connect with them, figure out who they are and make sure that they see you as a resource,” Groppe said. “That’s the same whether it’s school police with a badge and a gun or unarmed security staff. Getting to kids is the biggest thing because we want kids to be able to say ‘I have an adult that I can talk to.’”

Science Olympiad team hosts annual Battle at Valley Forge

By Fudail Ahmed and August Zangrilli, Staff Reporters

On Saturday, Dec. 16, Conestoga’s Science Olympiad team hosted and competed in the Battle at Valley Forge, an annual C-Division invitational held at Conestoga. The competition marks the team’s first in-person competition for the 2023-24 school year, following a virtual competition in November, and gives students an opportunity to hone their skills for the official tournaments later in the school year.

The invitational attracts teams from high schools across the East Coast, with competitors hailing from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia. During the competition, students competed in 23 events involving biology, chemistry and physics. The events featured physical experiments and tasks, such as building planes, catapults and musical instruments, and paper exams that tested students’ science knowledge. 

Conestoga science teachers and Science Olympiad coaches Derek Bosworth and Dr. Derrick Wood have high hopes for the team going into the official competition. The team has made it to the state tournament for the past 20 years, placing third five separate times. However, they have never made it to the national competition, where the two best teams from each state compete.

Wood said that one of his biggest hopes for the event was to scout potential contenders for the March regional tournament.

“I want to see competitors that really stand out compared to others — ones that might make the eventual team,” Wood said. 

Although more than 45 Conestoga students signed up for the competition, only 15 can compete on the official team. Bosworth says that giving competitors responsibility is important for bringing out the best in them. Bosworth and Wood try to allow students to participate in as many events as possible. 

Wood said the Science Olympiad team captains, senior Opal Jawale and junior Remington Yang, have put a lot of work into running and coordinating the competition.

“They’ve already helped so much with putting together the schedule, really interfacing with all our different students and doing a lot of different things that we need to compete,” Wood said. “Unlike some other teams or clubs, where it’s like, ‘Hey, we show up, play our game and then leave,’ we’re doing 23 different things at the same time. They’ve really done a good job at coordinating with everybody for different events and being the face of the team.” 

’Stoga alumnus DJ Bluefire soundtracked the competition, bringing an upbeat atmosphere to the event. Competitors played Science Olympiad-themed Blookets after the competitions. Conestoga teams secured third place in the “Write It Do It” and “Robot Tour” events.

Mini-THON planning committee organizes DonorDrive Push Week

By Emily Scheer, Staff Reporter

In preparation for the Mini-THON event, the Mini-THON planning committee hosted DonorDrive Push Week from Dec. 4-8, encouraging students and their families to register to the DonorDrive website that allows people to donate money for pediatric cancer patients. 

Mini-THON is an initiative under the Four Diamonds foundation that raises money for kids with pediatric cancer and culminates in an annual event in the spring. During push week, schools could receive donations to their respective DonorDrive fundraisers through achieving goals such as having the most registrations. So far, 124 people are registered on Conestoga’s DonorDrive page.

Sophomore Lily Zou is one of the eight overall Mini-THON chairs overseeing the different committees working on the event. 

“Push week is really important because it gets everyone on DonorDrive, which is the fundraising page and website that Mini-THON uses,” Zou said. “Push week is designed so that Four Diamonds gives schools incentives for us to reach so we can get money from DonorDrive from Four Diamonds to put into our Mini-THON.”

Throughout the year, the Mini-THON planning committee hosts different fundraisers to raise money. In November, it hosted the Student vs. Faculty Volleyball Game and raised more than $200. It also held a candy gram sale from Dec. 11-15, allowing students to send candy and a personalized message to someone for $1 that they will receive during their homeroom on Dec. 20.

“It (Mini-THON) fundraises money for kids with cancer and their families. It’s just a really fun opportunity for everyone to get together. Especially because it’s one of the longer events that Conestoga has,” Zou said.

Last year, the committee’s goal was to raise $25,000, and it reached around $24,000 at the end of the year. This year, the goal remains the same, with a different approach to encourage students to donate to the drive. 

“We’re just trying to find new, more fun events, more fundraisers that fundraise more money and trying to get more money into DonorDrive,” Zou said. “I think that’s a huge goal for us this year and also just staying in touch with our community.”


Aren Framil can be reached at [email protected].

Fudail Ahmed can be reached at [email protected].

Audrey Kim can be reached at [email protected].

Lexi Lin can be reached at [email protected].

Emily Scheer can be reached at [email protected].

August Zangrilli can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Aren Framil, Co-News Editor
Aren Framil is a junior and the Co-News Editor of The Spoke. He has previously served as a Design Editor and has a passion for visual design and graphics. He covers community events and enjoys investigative reporting on topics such as social justice. Outside of The Spoke, he is classically trained in Western opera and sings in soprano for PhilHarmonia, a choir in Philadelphia. He leads Conestoga's Graphic Design Club, and hopes to make a career in visual design.
Fudail Ahmed, Staff Reporter
Fudail Ahmed can be reached at [email protected].
Audrey Kim can be reached at [email protected].
Lexi Lin, Staff Reporter
Lexi Lin is a sophomore and Staff Reporter for The Spoke. She has reported on community events and sports games. Outside of The Spoke, she is a board member of the Asian American Culture Club, a member of the Math Competition Team and a competitive dancer.
Emily Scheer, Staff Reporter
Emily Scheer is a sophomore and Staff Reporter for The Spoke. This is her second year on staff. Outside of the Spoke she enjoys running and making short films.
August Zangrilli, Staff Reporter
August Zangrilli can be reached at [email protected].