Why Did The “Activity Period” Proposal Fail The Teachers’ Vote At Allderdice?

“Kids claim to have so much anxiety from the pressure that they feel to get good grades in these classes, and here it is we offered an opportunity for them to have even a miniscule amount of time for a break, and then that was shot down.”

Taylor Allderdice High School.

Steven Adams

Taylor Allderdice High School.

Students want a break. In a year that has been closer, but still not nearly “normal,” students are feeling burnt out. They want a time where things can slow down. 

That is why when some students heard about a proposal at Allderdice for an “activity period” to be installed on Wednesdays, they were excited. 

“We needed it because it could have helped us keep up with the work we have, and help us have less stress, and it’s a nice little break for the students since they’re doing school work all day, and helps them recharge,” a junior said of the idea.

“They would be able to focus more on their other classes, because at the end of the day all these students, they just give up and are burnt out.”

The Activity Period was designed to somewhat mirror what WIN Wednesdays offered students in the second semester during the 2020-21 school year. WIN Wednesdays last year provided a day away from the computer screen and Microsoft Teams calls for students, with only one 15-minute long call, homeroom, taking place at 10:45 AM. 

While this year’s plan did not make the whole day a WIN Wednesday-style day, it would have installed a 45-minute “activity period” in the day for students to take a break from the typical school day and participate in an activity, hosted by teachers in their classrooms. These activities could have ranged from a simple quiet study hall to a place to play cards, to a bike-riding group. 

The idea had been in the works for a little while, said English teacher Brittany Miller. 

“I had talked to Dr. McCoy at some point about telling him how many students had been talking about it at the beginning of this year, just needing that time. He told me at some point that there was a team of teachers that was working on it and trying to figure out some way to implement something similar to that.”

“We were looking for options, and he was supportive of that.”

The proposal was headed by teachers who saw the need for extra time to catch up on things, both for students and themselves. 

“Before this activity period vote came up, I had done a circle with students and asked them ‘if you could create any elective, what would that elective be,”’ Miller added.  

“Because I knew the vote was going to be coming up and I was interested to see what students wanted to do with their time. A tremendous amount of my students throughout four of my classes said that they just wanted a study hall.” 

So, why did it fail?

The teacher-wide, secret-ballot vote ended in a 62 yes-53 no. The “yes” votes fell seven short of the 69 votes needed in order for the proposal to be approved in this case. Allderdice operates with a system that requires a 60% threshold for proposals (such as the activity period) to be implemented. The 60% threshold was designed to prevent a small majority from implementing schoolwide changes and to ensure that a proposal that was approved had broad support. 

Teachers who supported the activity period praised the proposal’s ability to give stressed out students a break from their busy school weeks. 

“I was in favor of it because I really feel the students need a little break from the academic grind,” English teacher Helen Monroe said. “And I think that an activity period such as that, where they have some amount of choice, is a great option for that.”

She added that she didn’t feel that the schedule change would cause much of an impact on regularly scheduled classes. “I felt that the disruption to our schedule was ultimately minimal, and I didn’t expect that it was going to take away from class time. I felt the benefits outweighed the potential issues.”

The proposal had support from a variety of teaching departments.

“I just thought it would be something different, just a little break, a much-needed break,” Kelli Jackson of the physical education department said. “[I was] just willing to try something new.”

“I voted yes because I feel like it is a good opportunity for students and teachers to build rapport with each other and to have a break from school as well,” gym and health teacher Karina Scheuering added. 

“So, if you were able to sign up for an activity that you loved, even if it was for only 45 minutes, it was only taking 5 minutes away from each class, so I felt like, it wasn’t like, hitting hard to all classes that already have time taken away from them, and it gave students an opportunity just to take a break and get to know each other and the teaches better.” 

Jackson went further, saying “I’ve taught at a lot of different schools in [the Pittsburgh Public Schools] district, and I’ll say that Allderdice is the only school that I’ve been at where kids literally have anxiety–I’ve never seen the level of anxiety that I have seen at this school for that very reason: kids claim to have so much anxiety from the pressure that they feel to get good grades in these classes and here it is we offered an opportunity for them to have even a minuscule amount of time for a break and then that was shot down.”

Students were very excited about the opportunities the activity period could provide. Many students have voiced their wants for a break in the stressful school weeks, and the activity period, albeit only 45 minutes, could help alleviate some of that stress. 

“There are times where I’m behind on work so the extra 45 minutes would help me catch up on those assignments,” said Robert Catone, a junior.  

Despite its popularity amongst students, and the fact that it did receive more than 50% of teachers’ votes to approve, the proposal had opposition from enough teachers in the building to kill the idea. 

“I was in favor of the idea, just not this plan at this time,” Bradley Hoffer, a teacher who voted no to the proposal said. 

Hoffer expressed his concern for unforeseen issues that he says the proposal did not address. “There were things that weren’t planned for, such as a teacher calling off, who’s gonna cover that? Kids that didn’t sign up for an activity are just gonna be placed in an activity. Kids that just don’t want to go to their activity [would be] roaming the halls, who’s gonna handle them?”

“And I do feel that it kind of felt like it was rushed to be put into place, and I think that’s why some of this stuff may not have been thought through or thought out.”

Hoffer conceded that the faculty overall largely supported the idea, but maintained his claim that there were parts of the plan that had not been fully thought through, and that was what deterred him from voting in favor of the proposal. 

There has been speculation amongst staff that a vote for this plan, or a similar one. could take place in the future. But for this year, the plan is dead. 


Despite numerous attempts to reach teachers who voted no, Hoffer was the only person willing to speak to The Foreword.