New requirements bring frustration

Kavya Desikan, Editor

Beginning with the class of 2020, new graduation requirements were implemented for all students, consisting of a one half-year Fine/Performance Art class, two full years of a Foreign Language, and four half-year Physical Education classes without the ability to opt out. Other existing requirements include a half-year Computer Technology course, Freshman Health, four years of Math and English, and three years of History.

While these requirements are not new, since the class of 2020 is now juniors, many have begun to notice the impediment they can be when trying to select coursework. For example, the gym requirement was made so that all students would ideally be able to take one semester of gym every year. However, many students have begun to move the class in order to take seven full-year classes, pushing their gym semester and ultimately being forced to take two semesters of Physical Education in one year.

Previously, many students in classes older than the Class of 2020 had used loopholes in order to get out of one semester of gym in favor of a full-year course.

“Four years of gym,” said Guidance Coordinator Wendy Pechacek, “is a state requirement that has always been in place. There have been some years where there have been ways that people worked around that, but it is a requirement of the state. [The workarounds] should not have happened.”

Unlike the Physical Education requirement, which is state-mandated, the Fine/Performing Arts requirement is one mandated in Westford, not the state of Massachusetts.

“We went through three years worth of transcripts to see what percent of students were already doing these courses. It’s Visual and Performing Arts, which is Theatre, Art, and Music classes and a lot of our kids do all of these things […] when you look at the range for all of those classes […] I think [the percentage of students who took an Arts class] was around 92 percent,” said Pechacek, when talking about how the Fine/Performing Arts requirement came about.

The new requirements are relatively controversial, with different students often having conflicting opinions on the necessity of such requirements.

Many have found the requirements too restrictive, believing that these restrictions can take up too much space on an already limited schedule.

“If you know what you want to do in life and what you want to pursue, you should be able to put your best foot forward and take more challenging classes, so that you can get into those exclusive colleges,” said junior Alexa Wilson

For others, requirements such as the Physical Education one feel like a waste of time, especially when already playing in a varsity sport at Westford Academy.

“I’m on two varsity sports, so I do find gym redundant. If I’m trying to push for an AP class or another elective instead of having to take gym, or if I’m trying to take [another class] which pushes my grade up, or my GPA up, why do I have to take gym if I’m already doing exercise with the school every day after class?” said Wilson.

However, others like senior Olivia Vallone, find that taking classes and doing things you do not like is just part of life, and not something to be hung up on.

“I think this goes for any class, as well in life too. You’re going to have a job and you’re going to have to do an assignment that seems petty and that you don’t want to do, but you have to do things you don’t want to do sometimes, and it’s how you go into it. If you go into it negative, you’re not going to gain anything from it. And sure, you can request to opt out, but then you’re going to be missing out on an experience. You got to embrace the things you don’t want to do, and you’re going to gain more from it,” said Vallone.

While requirements like the Physical Education and Fine/Performing Arts have been highly controversial, other requirements like foreign language have ultimately gone undetected due to the fact that 96 percent of students at WA had already been taking two years of a foreign language.

In fact, it was this requirement that was more geared towards making sure students have options when applying for college.

“It does better position our students for the college admissions process because the [University of Massachusetts] system requires two years [of a foreign language]. We want our kids to at least be eligible to apply to state colleges and universities,” said Pechacek.

Despite the new requirements, it does appear that one requirement may soon be phased out for Westford Academy students: the Computer Technology course. According to Pechacek, this requirement is currently under reevaluation now that every student uses a Chromebook or personal laptop and now that almost all teachers have integrated technology into the classroom.