Opinion: Zero Period offers flexibility without detrimental effects

Jeanette Wong, Author

The most obvious defense of the controversial Zero Period — and what supporters of the policy have repeated time and time again — is that it’s a choice. If a student wants to take an early morning class and start his or her school day earlier, he or she should have the freedom to do so. The ability to make mature decisions about scheduling is one that will be very important in future years. Students should be trusted with the power to determine what works best for their academic life and how they want to manage their time.

Although concern over sleep deprivation among teenagers is reasonable when taking Zero Period into consideration, it should not be something that ultimately drives the elimination of the classes. To my knowledge, there has been no research done at PAUSD specifically to prove the correlation of sleep deprivation and Zero Period. In fact, some people may argue that Zero Period actually helps students go to sleep earlier, as it motivates them to manage their time better. Providing an opportunity for students to learn at an earlier time than usual does not necessarily lead to a surge in sleep-deprived students. Besides, some sports teams already implement morning practices and a handful of students arrive at school well before the first bell rings. If the goal is to ensure that everyone gets enough sleep, should PAUSD prohibit students from being on campus before a given time too?

Additionally, some people argue that Zero Period is used inappropriately by high-achieving students to take an extra class. They claim that students want to get ahead and have an advantage over their peers. While I agree with the fact that those students, if such students exist, are using the class for the wrong reason, I believe it would be wrong to take away Zero Period from everyone in order to combat this issue. Many students opt to take the class so that they can have a prep period later on in the day, according to comments made at the school board meeting this week. And, those who sign up for a Zero Period with the intention of taking an additional class could genuinely be interested their courses and are looking to challenge themselves. Restricting a student from their full potential in hopes of reaching complete academic equality is very counterproductive.

For these reasons, Zero Period, Paly’s Zero Period PE in particular, should be offered in PAUSD.