We have many unanswered questions.
It was an exciting day back in 2014 when I first entered the high school gym. All of us anxious ninth graders clumped together in a large orange herd, and made our way to the end of the gym, to our designated section – the freshman section. Opposite us were the seniors. One of them happened to be my older sister, wearing her red polo, the shirt I watched her put on, gleaming with pride, that morning. Next to them were the juniors, still unfamiliar to the life of an upperclassman. They finally got to trade out their sophomore green, for yellow, the color symbolizing the last step before long awaited seniority, a tradition passed down by each junior class before them. We definitely weren’t the first group of wide eyed fourteen year olds to inhabit the freshman area, but what we didn’t know at the time is that we would be one of the last.
The House System began as a quiet rumor among students, no one quite sure it would actually be implemented. However as the 2016 school year began to come to a close we were faced with the harsh reality that the new school year would bring change. First, it began with our shirts. I traded what would have been my yellow polo for a blue Aquila shirt. Although I wasn’t pleased I understood the perspective of the administration, but could it be possible to incorporate the house symbols with our class colors? Mr. Londgren, one of the coordinators of the House System said frankly, “It came to the point where it wasn’t even cost effective, it didn’t make financial sense for [student council] to purchase the shirts because no one was buying them except for seniors, so we needed a creative solution.” But what followed had many students, specifically sophomores and juniors confused, angry, and disappointed.
Welcome Back Day, held on Friday, August 12th, was a day of bonding for each house. Filled with fun activities and friendly competition, everyone, even students skeptical of the house system, was smiling and joining in on the fun. That was until an announcement around two o’clock, stating that we had to sit with our house. The smiles faded from the students once elated faces. I tried to be optimistic, thinking that this was only due to the fact that we were already organized by house and under the impression that other assemblies would be different. But, a week later at our service assembly we were asked again to sit by house. Here I was, two years after my first day of highschool, required to sit in the same place I had occupied as a freshman. Only this time I was 16, and when I looked across the gym, to a section once filled with yellow polos, I no longer had the hope I once had of ever sitting there.
Many students spoke very passionately against this change. Junior Kayleen Bettencourt said, “We’ve gone through two years of high school, we deserve to sit where it is representative, and we deserve to be treated that way. I’m walking at graduation with my class, not with my house.”
Mr. Londgren responded, “The issue is logistics. We have 400 freshman and 160 new students who wouldn’t know where to go.” But what if class seating had been introduced first?
Junior Shelby Spinks says, “How hard is it to tell us to sit by grade? We know our grade probably better than we know our house.”
Some freshman, although never having seen grade section seating felt the same way. Ninth grader Leena Zitoun said, “It’s good but there should be grade groups so we feel a part of something, because right now we don’t. It’s too big and we don’t know anyone.”
After sharing these changes with an anonymous SAS alum she gave me her thoughts, “I look back on high school and I remember my polos, I still have them. I remember sitting with my grade” …“Especially in those last two years, how great it felt to be recognized as an upperclassman. Moving from each section and seeing the trajectory made a huge part of why high school was so great for me. So if I could ask anything of administration, don’t take that away from these students, please.”
The House System has great benefits, including the fun of welcome back day and as Mr. Londgren has seen, the return of school spirit that had begun a slow decline over the years. However, to many it feels as though some changes have crossed over into removing the strong sense of grade identity that had previously unified us. Now students are left wondering, where do we really belong?