Students Struggle to Unpack the No-Backpack Policy

This fall, in an attempt to return to pre-COVID ways, Middle School administrators decided to bring back the no-backpack change by restricting students from carrying backpacks to class.

According to Middle School faculty and administration, the no-backpack policy was reinstated to help students with organization and executive functioning skills, including pre-planning and organization.

In fact, Catherine Zidow, 8th-grade girl’s grade chair, says the decision was unanimous among Middle School faculty, the main reason being that backpacks take up much-needed space in a classroom. However, Middle School Head Danette Morton claims that returning to pre-COVID ways helps students grow academically. “Every Middle School teacher knows that kids have to practice planning, and most teachers build that into everything they are teaching,” says Morton. She adds that having backpacks really limit this aspect of middle school growth in the sense that students can carry all of their belongings in their backpacks. 

Because Upper School students carry back backpacks everywhere and have no lockers, Middle Schoolers question why they have different rules. Middle School Dean of Students Walter DuPriest says that the reasoning behind this difference is that the high school’s campus is bigger and they have fewer classes. Having fewer classes means fewer binders. In fact, middle school teachers consistently support the idea that Middle School is the place where students learn how to stay organized and plan ahead. In high school, students are on their own and need to know how to be organized.

Westminster student opinion has been mostly unanimous in dislike of the new policy. 8th grader Smith Easton complains that it’s hard to carry so much stuff sometimes. 7th grader Emery Fowler agrees, but says that the change can sometimes be nice. 8th grader Brij Vyas adds “I think it’s good to help us adjust to lockers,” while also mentioning that carrying lots of binders and books without a backpack is hard. 

Finally, Ms. Zidow points out that the locker commons make Westminster a more social place. The locker commons provide a community for each grade. That community is something special about Westminster. For example, how many people have had their locker decorated by their friends? That’s an experience that is unique to Middle school.