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The Paw Print

The Paw Print

It’s time to rethink the patios

Graphic courtesy of Shayla Starr

A patio is more than just tables and chairs. It’s a “home base” for students to eat, hang out, meet with teachers, take a break, (attempt to) study, enjoy sunlight and wait while the grades of tomorrow’s test hang in the balance. It should be an epicenter of laughter and friendship to combat the rustling of textbooks.

Poly’s campus contains four patios: McWilliams Courtyard (the senior patio), Erdman Courtyard (the junior patio), the sophomore patio and the freshman patio, each resembling mini university quads. Interestingly, Dean of Student Life Laurianne Williams shared that the patios, besides McWilliams Courtyard, were not formally established as single-grade patios but naturally transformed into a rigid social system. Consequently, the patios reinforce the hierarchy of seniority by age, leaving the first- and second-year students with a cautious feeling when walking across an upperclassmen patio, even causing them to think about avoiding that path altogether.

Our schoolwide Honor Code strives to foster inclusion, promote academic excellence, and treat others with generosity, kindness and integrity. Still, the layout of the patios on campus is the root of the lack of those values, both socially and physically.

For me, the transition from the freshman patio to the sophomore patio this year has made this problem worse. Naturally, the seating situations induced the most noticeable change, with the freshman patio housing four long rectangular tables and benches and the sophomore patio being filled with tiny circular tables.

On the freshman patio, the long rectangular tables provide space for more than a dozen people to sit together, allowing for a smoother integration of new and returning students into the Upper School. They help groups avoid “owning” a particular area and making it less daunting to approach and converse with others by not being in a closed loop. The benches also create a space where you can sit by yourself to catch some air if needed, still connected to the day’s events without being surrounded by activity, making for an excellent study space.

The sophomore patio holds more backpacks than individuals, as the sophomore lockers sit in a building halfway across campus, some even on the lowest floor. The circular tables — permitting no more than eight people per table — reinforce social hierarchies and cliques. I’ve noticed that this causes groups to separate based on the table space or leaves some standing around it, making eating a proper meal at school infinitely more complicated.

Sophomore Daniel Ismagilov said, “The patio does not provide enough space, as there are only small tables, so we’ve had to find alternate spaces, which have made it more difficult to interact with other classmates. So, I’ve been seeing people not in my immediate group a lot less than last year.”

Beyond longer tables, a patio holds endless possibilities, ideally becoming a setting defined by the class’s identity in order to create a strong, tightly knit community. It could be a place for art, murals, music, personal projects and cultural displays that individuals feel proud to share and support. It could be a place for studying and relaxation with greenery and a variety of furniture, from stools to poofs to bean bag chairs. It could bring together a mix of grades by hosting activities or advisory family meetings for all, allowing others to see a little more clearly into the lives of others outside their class, which would help lessen the hierarchy between the junior, sophomore and freshman classes to promote bonding among people.

In order to reasonably achieve this, students and faculty in leadership positions should prioritize patio revamping, with the class cabinets dedicating a portion of their funds throughout the year to upgrading aspects of the patio specific to the class’ needs besides furniture like cushions, speakers and activity tables. Additionally, the school administration should fund the larger purchases such as tables, items that coincide with the principles of inclusivity and sustainability preached around campus. I hope these changes foster connection with our school-wide mission and create a space that represents the individual personalities of each class as we continue into the school year.

With all this being said, I truly appreciate having a patio at all. With the combined efforts of students and administrators, we can make our campus more inclusive and enjoyable.

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About the Contributor
Anya Patel, Assistant Opinion Editor
Grade: 10 Years on Staff: 2 Fun Fact: My favorite food combination is Twix dipped in orange juice! Favorite Movie: Birdbox
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