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OPINION: The WHS Courtyard

Dear Westfield High School Administration,

On behalf of so many Rocks students of every graduating class past and present, we’re going to seize the opportunity to raise some much needed attention concerning the courtyard outside the senior cafeteria. We’ll keep the focus specific and to the point: can we use it, please? Can we not just let natural light seep through the hallways, or remind everyone that there is a big beautiful world outside the walls of high school? Rather, can we transform it into an accessible and practical meeting place of collaborative learning? Looking back in history, we see the importance of the courtyard as the preferred meeting place for Socrates and Plato in discussing philosophy. The courtyard was a sacred space: one for intimacy with nature amidst the surrounding chaos. While it’s much appreciated that the administration offers an open air location for relaxation and eating upon request, it’s a tragedy that it has to be locked all the time. Upon considering recent school shootings, safety is clearly a unanimous concern. Personally, we don’t believe that anything bad will occur in that little courtyard. Nobody can get into it from outside the school. It’s still disheartening that we have to think about those safety standards.

The outdoors is a beautiful place to recline and study. It is a refreshing break from the crowded and loud cafeteria and it helps improve focus. It brings benefits for stressed and anxious students that just need a break from the masses. The few times we’ve had the privilege to walk out and enjoy the courtyard, it felt incredibly relieving to be surrounded by fresh air and chirping birds. It was almost as if we could feel our levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreasing. Truly, anybody should be able to experience the joy of being unshackled by the weight of daily school life. The benefits outweigh the negatives for anxious students. Period. They could even utilize the quaint space for personal therapy sessions to ease mental health issues. For students affected by any health problems, getting out could make them feel like they’re getting out from inside their heads, and just maybe be able to eat in peace for once.

Obviously, there are imperfections. Students may abuse the privilege of that outdoor opening, but the same could be argued about any part of the school. Not only that, but a courtyard surrounded by windows would be more exposed; thus making any suboptimal activities pathetically easy to spot. That being said, most students in our school are hardworking, trustworthy, responsible people who, if given the opportunity, would seize the chance to positively use the courtyard. To take a breath. To relax. Or maybe it will just be there, just one thing that nobody in our school cares enough about anyways to make a big deal about. One day, we’ll prove ourselves as worthy of taking full use of the beautiful outdoors that you’ve so kindly placed there. But for now, it will just be another decoration.


Thomas Pugh and Ben Richardson

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