Shutting the Door on Learning: On the Closing of the ARC Doors and Why It Matters

If the past few months have proven anything at all, it’s that DHS students have a tendency to get very, very defensive about the things we believe in. And while yes, in this case, the cause we’ve all rallied behind isn’t as noble or crucial as world peace, it’s still something that affects each and every one of us: the closing of the ARC doors. This new decision has been the talk of DHS ever since it was first announced in the fall of this year, and not in a good way; mostly because it’s a bad decision. Do closing the doors really help people concentrate on their work? Or reduce noise level significantly? Is it worth it to waste at least five minutes of our days that could easily saved? The answer behind all of these questions is a resounding no. The ARC decision is at best illogical and annoying and at worst actually hurts the ARC and DHS students.

First, let’s do a quick recap on how exactly events unfolded. At some point between the beginning of the school year and October, the initial decision to close the doors was made. Originally, the doors were only closed before school and during lunch periods. DHS students were not notified via email, but instead through trial and error: the doors to the library were locked and anyone who tried walking through the ARC was told that they now had to go around. Then, on October 15, Principal Anderson sent out an email explaining that the doors would be reopened, so long as students kept the noise to respectful level. On December 7, another email officially closing the ARC doors once again—and for good this time—was sent out. While originally, the doors connecting the library and the ARC were closed, as of February 1, the ones leading out to Q-hall were shut instead. And that’s the way they’ve stayed.

Now that we’re all caught up, let’s get to the fun part: explaining why exactly keeping students from passing through the ARC makes absolutely no sense. In the emails and correspondence to DHS students and staff, one of the key reasons for the closing of the doors is said to be that the noise level in the ARC could disturb students and their work. But considering that 3/4 of the members of this editorial board are ARC tutors, and considering that we’ve all talked extensively with both student and adult tutors in the ARC, we can confirm that no one really notices a difference in noise if the doors are open rather than closed. While kids either passing through or working in the library obviously aren’t silent, they’re usually not nearly loud enough to be considered a legitimate distraction; and even if they were, ARC tutors would have no problem calling them out on it. And regardless, the ARC has never been and never should be just a place for quiet study. After all, it would be nearly impossible for a tutor to be able to help explain a problem to a student without talking. The English ARC in particular is always buzzing with conversation. The only time that noise level is really an issue in the ARC is during passing periods: a time when almost no one is being tutored because kids need to get class. The noise level really doesn’t matter if it’s not interrupting the work of students and staff.
While the official reason for the change may be noise control for the ARC, an underlying motive—and in fact, maybe even the primary reason—is controlling the chaos of the DHS library. But honestly, do we even need to get into how much of a joke it would be to argue that closing the doors would keep the noise level down in library? Whether or not you like it, it’s hard to disagree with the fact that when describing DHS’ library, “quiet” is nowhere near the first word you would use. Or even in the first 20. The library is the one place in DHS big enough and convenient enough to act as a sort of social meeting place for students, outside of the blocks (which get way too crowded very easily) or the cafeteria. While it might not be ideal, it is the truth, and as a result it genuinely doesn’t make sense to say that something as small as closing the ARC doors would have an impact on the library, of all places.

Closing the doors does have an impact on the ARC however, and on the well-being of students. By closing the doors, the ARC becomes less accessible to students who might be hesitant to even ask for help in the first place. As silly as it sounds, the difference between a closed door and an open one might actually be the difference between whether or not a student chooses to go in for the help they need.
Additionally, being able to pass through the ARC is invaluable in terms of making sure that students can get to class on time. Especially in the winter, when the courtyard is closed, there is no accessible way to make it from Q-hall to the other side of the school without taking at least one major detour. Even students with the best intentions can get caught up in the hustle and bustle of hallway intersections, causing jams and delays. It would be far better for students, therefore, if the doors stayed open for at least those five-minute intervals.

Considering the benefits to students, and the seeming indifference of those working in the ARC, it is still unknown who exactly brought up concerns that caused the change in DHS’ status quo. And, quite frankly, all of the consistent changes in the technicalities of the ARC’s closing are also reason for annoyance. If we had, for example, stuck with the first decision made at the beginning of the year, then this all would have likely died down as students found a way to adapt; but the constant changes just serve to further highlight the issues with the current status of the ARC doors.

So what do we think should be done about this problem? Well, first of all, it would be great if we could have the ARC doors open during passing periods. Convenience for students means that a) we’ll all be less stressed about getting to class on time and b) the ARC will be more accessible for everyone. However, we do have to acknowledge one problem that closing the doors does actually solve: ARC traffic during lunch periods. Obviously, for kids without free periods lunch is the best time to visit the ARC for help; however, lunch periods also means that kids walk around freely and loudly, possibly disrupting those students studying the ARC when they choose to walk through. Plus, students who have lunch will have more time than the usual 5-minute passing periods to get to class, so they don’t necessarily need the shortcut that the ARC provides. If we were to go back to something more closely resembling the original solution, therefore, it would be the best of both worlds.

And finally, let us just say that this debate isn’t blowing things way out of proportion, as some might claim. Although an open versus closed door may seem like an almost trivial difference at first, it matters. It matters because our education is important, and so we need to be able to get to our classes and get help when we need it as easily as possible. It matters because time is the most invaluable resource we have, and even a couple of seconds can make all the difference to us. It matters because at the end of the day the ARC is an incredible part of Deerfield High School, and we would hate for this decision to shut it off from the student body.