The halls are empty. The silence lays thick and heavy throughout the school, and the fluorescent lights illuminate the empty hallway in a rather gloomy manner. Everything is quiet and still. No noise comes from the classrooms, except for the occasional rustling of a paper, a voice asking a question — or answering one. Despite the silence, however, there is an odd kind of anticipation in the air; one, though, of which the unsuspecting onlooker is curiously unaware.

A moment later, somewhere within the maze of hallways and walls in the school, a bell rings — and an eruption occurs. Books slam shut, chairs squeak, doors close, and lockers are opened. The school is suddenly filled with the voices of high school students gossiping with each other about the day’s events, making the phone calls and sending the text messages forbidden moments ago and packing their bags with books and papers as they make their way to cars, buses, the gym, auditorium, or wherever their agenda may lead them. You might even see a few teachers casually exchanging a word (or maybe more!) in a now-abandoned classroom. Another day has just finished at Niagara Catholic High School.

Though this scene may seem ordinary, Niagara Catholic is anything but ordinary. It is the first school in New York state to adopt a four-day school week. Though this means the scene described above occurs an hour later each day, it is definitely worth enduring the extra 60 minutes to receive a three-day weekend every week.

As a junior at Niagara Catholic, I was thrilled when the school switched to a four-day school week. Mondays suddenly presented a new horizon for me — and my classmates. I have more time for homework, studying for my impending SATs, working on science fair projects and helping out with chores around the house, lessening the load on my parents so we can spend more “family time” together. Many of my fellow classmates work on Mondays, allowing them a bit of extra money — and another point to list on a curriculum vitae. That does not mean, however, that my long weekends are going to be spent by all work and no play. Sports practices and field trips are now being scheduled for Mondays. I myself am taking piano lessons on Mondays. The school is also opened on Mondays for students wishing to work on decorations or practice powder-puff football for the upcoming festivities during homecoming week.

Though the four-day week does come with longer school days, I do not really find this presents a disadvantage. Teachers are understanding about the fatigue which inevitably comes with the last class of the day (a fatigue which they often share!), and give less homework than before, appreciating the fact that we have one less hour to work on it, and also acknowledging we are able to complete more work during class time. Although there is no late bus, sports and club meetings finish late enough to allow most students to find a ride home. Furthermore, schedules are mixed to allow what are usually viewed as less mentally taxing classes such as art and gym to be located between traditionally more challenging classes such mathematics and history. Niagara Catholic has also instigated a sports-for-credit policy in which students can earn physical education credit by participating in sports. This allows athletes to have extra study halls in school for homework and studying instead of participating in gym class. Many of my classmates have taken advantage of this opportunity, and are enjoying the option very much.

There are so many after-school opportunities at Niagara Catholic that students do not need to go home to an empty home after-school or on Mondays to look after themselves until their parents come home from work. Besides sports, Niagara Catholic has an excellent drama club which presents several productions annually and is currently working on “Godspell”; choir, which performs at the numerous masses held throughout the school year as well as various community events; Key Club, where members perform community service; ping-pong club; mock trial team; honor society; SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), which informs its fellow students about the dangers of DWI, Internet chat lines, etc.; student council; yearbook and the organizations I myself am part of: Chess Club, TAG (Transplant Awareness Group — promotes organ and blood donation), and the Masterminds Team (our school’s academic team — and my personal favorite!). All of these programs, however, present excellent ways for a student to spend leisure time after school — especially the students who are not particularly gifted at athletics.

I hope I answered at least some questions prospective students and their parents may have about Niagara Catholic High School and, if not, at least portrayed an accurate and optimistic view of my school and the wonderful educational and extra-curricular options it gives its students. In the words of the American reformist John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

Beatrice Preti is a student at Niagara Catholic High School.

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