The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Pardon all recent tardies

With traffic reaching unprecedented levels, the school should be more lenient with morning tardies.
Illustration: Juana Markman
A line of cars waits on Ventura Boulevard.

I sat in my car, fidgeting in the driver’s seat as the clock on my dashboard flashed 8:00 a.m. I was late again. I had been sitting in the left-turn lane on Ventura Boulevard, a major collector road opposite the Upper School, for more than 15 minutes. Some 20 cars still idled in front of me, waiting their turn for the traffic light to turn green. It’s an experience that most have related to strongly over the past couple of months, ever since unprecedented and sustained traffic jams started slowing cars to a crawl, keeping countless students from arriving on time.

The recent surge in traffic stems from a series of road closures near the Upper School due to heavy rains in January and February which caused multiple mudslides and sinkholes. Mulholland Drive has been shut down between Laurel Canyon Blvd. and Coldwater Canyon Drive for over a month since a mudslide damaged a stretch of the road. The Skirball-Mulholland northbound 405 off-ramp has been indefinitely closed since mid-February because of a sinkhole. Both of these closures have rerouted traffic through Coldwater Canyon Drive, a major thoroughfare for Los Angeles (LA) traffic, making it inconvenient and time-consuming for students to get to school.

For the past month and a half, the streets leading into the Upper School have been an urban planner’s worst-case scenario. Most days, the intersection at Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Drive is practically in gridlock, and the left turn lane on Ventura Boulevard stretches back nearly half a mile. Coldwater Canyon Drive turns into the Upper School’s parking lot, and it suffers similarly dire traffic jams.

Tardies and late check-ins on the school’s attendance app iHW have considerably increased since February. When road closures and garbage day made an especially frustrating traffic nightmare Feb. 28, around 44% of students were late to their first class, according to Student Discipline and Attendance Coordinator Gabriel Preciado. He based this estimate on iHW student check-in data.

One tardy might not mean much, but stacking up seven tardies in a quarter results in a detention. Even then, being late is frustrating regardless of the consequences. It’s embarrassing and anxiety-inducing to sneak into class during a teacher’s lecture . We shouldn’t accept tardies as a natural or acceptable result of the ongoing traffic. Instead, the school should accommodate and try to minimize students’ stress until roads reopen.

First, the school should erase tardies for students who have been late to morning classes since February—a pardon, so to speak—so they aren’t held at fault for a situation beyond their control. Second, the school should reinstitute the 8:05 a.m. grace period while also extending it extend it to 8:10 a.m. That policy was ended at the beginning of the school year to discourage lateness , but it should be revived until the traffic dies down. We should still emphasize that classes start at 8:00 a.m. and that students should try to arrive by then, but it does us no good to punish students for the crime of sitting in traffic.

Without action from the school, students will only have two options to ensure they arrive by 8:00 a.m. The first option is waking up earlier, a solution absolutely no one would enjoy. In a previous Chronicle article, I wrote about the effects of sleep deprivation on teenagers, and encouraging them to get up even 10-15 minutes earlier can have serious consequences for their well-being. The second is for students to drive faster, an incredibly dangerous alternative. This is especially hazardous at a high school, where most students have driven for one or two years maximum. Speeding is bad enough, let alone for inexperienced drivers, and students who are sick of getting tardies and don’t want to wake up earlier might just choose this option.

There’s a legitimate concern that permitting students to be tardy, even only until the traffic subsides, would encourage students to deliberately arrive late. But, students are already late in record numbers despite the threat of tardies. It’s clear the current overly-punitive system doesn’t actually deter students from showing up late.

The school should put student well-being at the forefront so kids don’t need to choose between sleeping an extra 15 minutes, driving over the speed limit or showing up to school on time. So long as Ventura Boulevard is stuck in gridlock for 30 minutes at a time, the school shouldn’t punish students for circumstances beyond their control.

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Max Turetzky, Assistant Opinion Editor

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