Mixed views for Student Support Initiative (Den Time)

Next+year%2C+WEGOs+classrooms+will+be+filled+with+students+engaging+in+Den+Time%2C+or+the+Student+Support+Initiative.

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Next year, WEGO’s classrooms will be filled with students engaging in Den Time, or the Student Support Initiative.

By Karidja Monjolo, Reporter

For returning students, WEGO will look different in 2022-23, with a new bell schedule and a new class. 

As explained in a previous news article, West Chicago Community High School is introducing a program, the Student Support Initiative, or Den Time, for the coming academic year. 

Den Time is a half-hour program that focuses on students’ social and emotional health and wellbeing. The class will take place every Tuesday through Friday as a way for students at all grade levels to gain knowledge about student culture, post-high school careers and different mental health components. 

Specifically, according to AVID teacher Nick Kempski, who was involved in developing curriculum for the new program, “it will focus on building community within the school, social and emotional learning, and academic support.”

The bell schedule will change in 2022-23 to accommodate the new class.

The new bell schedule will be instituted in August 2022. (Photo by Nick Kempski)

Gauging student reactions was challenging, as the program has not been officially rolled out yet. It was evident students had limited knowledge of the program when surveyed, but they viewed Den Time with tentative optimism.

“I think [Den Time] will be really beneficial. Things like mental health and anxiety contribute to stress a lot, so having a study hall will help people deal with the stress,” said freshman Annaliesa Herbst.

“I think it will be an interesting idea. I think the mental health aspect is good, but I think mental health and social and emotional learning should be a part of the required curriculum regardless.  It would be nice if [SEL] was paired with something like AVID. Conceptually, it’s a great idea, but I’m not sure how good it would be in practice,” said sophomore Micah Weber.

While it is clear the school has done a great deal of work to not only institute the program at WEGO, but also plan out what the curriculum will look like at each grade level, I see pros and cons to the initiative. For starters, maybe this “class” could have been better served as an elective, not something required for all students. 

While I find some aspects of Den Time to be useful, such as the mental health component and the academic tutoring aspects, it seems to me the program will consist of content that can be found in other classes already offered at WEGO. Of course, it is important for schools to provide all students with knowledge about college and post-graduation options. However, to learn about college and post-high school careers, students can take AVID. 

I see benefits to the academic support (tutoring) component of Den Time as well. Building in academic support opportunities will be useful for students who might be too afraid to ask for help. At the same time, if students need a study hall, that option is already provided to them, so why require it? 

Clearly, I do not have a solid opinion on the Student Support Initiative, as I have yet to take it. But, I hope the administration does take into consideration the opinions of next year’s students and adjust accordingly. As far as I can tell, students have not been surveyed or incorporated in any way during the planning process as of yet.