Students shouldering huge loads

 - Jennifer Morris/Staff photo
— image credit: Jennifer Morris/Staff photo

POULSBO — Eighth graders Melissa Warren and Mallory Tidball are bearing a heavy load this school year, but not in the way one might imagine.

With only two minutes between periods — scarcely enough time to make it to class and definitely too short a stretch to visit the lockers — students are now packing several classes’ worth of texts on their backs as they travel the hallways each day. And according to Warren and Tidball, they are none too happy about it.

“We just barely make it on time,” Warren said. “There’s people late to every period.”

Unlike middle schoolers, North Kitsap High School students have seven minutes to travel between classes, and she’d like at least five, she said.

Because they are hurried from period to period, Warren said returning to lockers for books is impossible, meaning most students carry several texts with them throughout the day, along with their P.E. clothes, art supplies, instruments, water bottles and lunch boxes. She said the extra weight can be a burden.

Tidball said she’d like to see teachers try walking in students’ shoes for a day, with heavy backpacks constantly on their shoulders. She often suffers a sore back and aching feet.

Pulling out her backpack, along with Warren, each displayed several binders, among other books and supplies, filling the packs so full they could hardly be zipped closed.

Both said many students are upset by having to carry so much, and they had considered starting a petition to remedy the situation.

Poulsbo physical therapist Wade Zinn said for children anywhere between elementary and high school, carrying 20- to 25-pound packs around can have adverse effects on their backs, necks and spines. He said physicians sometimes see kids with unexplained back pain that is traced back to the weight they carry, and middle school is often the time homework and book loads tend to increase.

Typically, any painful symptoms will be relieved once that behavior of carrying the heavy bags is ended, he said.

Not everyone thinks the short passing periods are a detriment.

Poulsbo Middle School Principal Matt Vandeleur said the two-minute passing period shouldn’t be a problem for students when they’re traveling to and from their core classes, considering classrooms are right next to each other. Core classes include science, English, math and social studies.

“The way the school’s learning centers are organized, students walk right outside of their door and their core classes are all right next to each other,” he said.

Vandeleur said there’s a reason why passing times between classes are minimal.

“With the shorter transition time between classes, there’s more time focused in the classroom,” he said. “We want to keep students pretty active and don’t want them to have excessive amounts of standing around time. We’re focused on student learning.”

Vandeleur said the short passing period times are taken into account by teachers when students travel to classes not in their core, which are a farther distance away.

“When students travel to their other classes it’s a little bit further away, and teachers are more flexible (in regards to students being late),” he said. “Students are making an effort to get to their classes quickly and teachers are accommodating those students. The kids just have been great and are making an effort to get to each of their non-core classes on time.”

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