The views among the mistresses were more mixed that those among the girls, and ranged from delighted and relieved, to anxious and apprehensive, to adamantly scornful. Surprisingly, the division between the pleased and displeased cut across lines of both age, nationality and previous Chalet School history.
Miss Charlesworth, head of the history department, was frankly contemptuous of 'all this newfangled nonsense', as she bluntly put it. She felt no need for extra privileges, modern technologies and culture, or a wider social scene. What girls needed was 'good, solid discipline and hard work, none of this silliness'. Misses Stone and Barton of the junior school shared her general opinions. They preferred old-fashioned discipline and rules, with the students respectful and kept firmly in line, and had no desire to cope with some of the discipline problems that other schools faced.
Miss Desmoines, the senior French mistress, was equally, if less vocally, opposed to the social changes. She felt that exposing the girls to wider temptations - rock music, movies, boys, risque books - was likely to lead them into serious trouble. The school's job was 'to protect our girls, keep them away from temptation and the sinfullness of the world, and lead them towards a properly pious life.' Adrienne had seriously considered taking orders like her distant relative, Soeur Cecile, but had eventually decided to return to the Chalet school to teach, in part because of its religious focus and isolation from the confusion and secularity of the modern world. The prospective of modernisation frightened her.
Some of the old girls among the mistresses and parents were more nostalgic than anything else. They remembered their own school days as a safe, comfortable haven away from the world, where the mistresses and students lived in a secure bubble of their own society, largely unaffected by the world around them. Modern society, with its multitude of choices, rapidly changing culture, and lack of a solid framework for behaviour and roles, seemed chaotic and stressful by comparison with their idyllically remember schooldays.
It must be admitted that even the most enthusiastic of the staff for somewhat taken aback at the amount of work that planning the new programmes involved. The mistresses involved in teaching extras were the most put apon, as hobbies and sports were a major part of the reorganisation. Miss Caird, for PT, Miss Lawrence for music and Miss Yolland for Art were looking particularly stressed out, if generally pleased with the results.
"What are you three going to choose?" Marie Courvosier asked her friends. Several of the fifth form girls were sprawled about their form room, looking at the new options for clubs for the senior middles and seniors.
"Photography, I think," replied Daphne. "We'll get to learn how to develop film and make prints, plus expeditions for nature photography and photographing historical sites."
"Creative writing and journalism for me!" said Phil, who had inherited her mother's literary talents. "Imagine being officially encouraged to write stories, rather than being told that it's a waste of time and energy.
"I want the camping club," put in Lois Graves. "Wood-craft, camp-craft and actual overnight camping trips in the summer. Divine! What about you?"
"Pottery for sure, but I can't decide between Irish Dancing and extra Games. I've always wanted to learn the first, but the games would give a lot more variety."
The reorganisation of hobbies had been a big hit. Girls were given three slots for extracurricular activities. Private music, art or dance lessons could take up one slot, as could playing on a school team, although these had to be paid for by the parents in the first case, and the girls had to qualify for the team in the second. The other slots had a variety of options, including a mix of arts and crafts, choir, folk dance, photography, drama, creative writing, camping, and a general games option for those who just loved to play, regardless of skill. One of the choices had to involve physical activity, to keep the more sedentary girls in shape. The school would still maintain its regular PT classes, rambling, winter sports and swimming as part of the curriculum.
Under special circumstances a girl could be exempt from one of the slots. In particular, new girls who were struggling with learning the languages, and girls who had academic difficulties and needed tutoring, could, on consultation with the counsellors, drop a hobby in order to be able to devote more time to study.
So far the biggest problem among the students was deciding which of the options they wanted to try for the first year. They could pick new hobbies from year to year, but had to stick with what they decided for a full year, barring a total disaster.
"This whole affair has certainly done Cecilia Maynard a world of good," said Miss Smitts, apropos of nothing, as a few of the senior staff relaxed over coffee and biscuits.
Miss Andrews looked up from her novel. "In what way? I don't see much of her these days."
"It's like she's more, well, more there. She's spending less time locked off in her own world, and seems to be much more comfortable with the other prefects. She's interacting more with the younger girls, too."
Miss Ferrars smiled in satisfaction. "Good. I hoped having her as a prefect would shake her up a bit. She's a thoroughly nice girl, but she's never really fit in. I rather think she had gotten used to being on the outskirts of things, but someone with her brains and, ah, determination really does need to learn how to interact with people comfortably."
"I'm quite proud of the whole prefect body this year," continued Miss Smitts. "They've really taken the lead, and are initiating new ideas, in a very mature way." Miss Wilmot laughed. "I must say, it's a welcome change from the ususal fuss over choosing a creative theme for the sale. Speaking of which, have they decided on one yet? Or are they going to go with Cecilia's original suggestion?" The staff chortled. Cecilia had been overheard suggesting a "Great Rebellions through the Ages" sale, with a special section on the changes in the Chalet School.
In the prefect's common room, the girls looked over the changes in social policy. Chris bounced up and down in her seat in excitement. "Goody, goody, we get regular social events with St Andrew's school near Interlaken. I'd even go to a debating society meeting if it meant there were boys there!"
"You'd go to a forced labour camp if you thought there'd be boys there," responded Cecilia dryly.
"Only if they were really cute!"
"They're still checking our reading material at the beginning of each term, though," said Bethany, with some disappointment.
"But they've expanded the allowed material a lot so it won't be as bad." countered Jeanne Allison. "And we're going to have weekend expeditions to town for a movie and a chance to go shopping at least twice a term, and we're getting subscriptions to English, German and French newspapers for the senior common rooms."
Marjorie looked wistful. "I wish I were going to be here another year. It sounds like a lot of fun."
Cecilia grinned, "But at uni you'll be able to choose your own books and newspapers anyways. I'm sorry to be missing the new hobbies, though."
The girls hadn't gotten everything they had asked for. Books, music and magazines would still be vetted at the beginning of each term, and the requests for a free hand in decorating the common and dorm rooms had been scaled down considerably. However, the form rooms were each given a record player, a mix of albums and a design makeover, for a more modern, relaxed atmosphere. The restrictions on cubicle adornments were also relaxed, and modern news magazines would be provided for the senior common rooms.
Regular activities were being scheduled with two nearby boys' schools, one Catholic and one Protestant. In addition to purely social activites, the schools were to collaborate on special lectures and occasional field trips. Suggestions that girls be allowed to date freely, however, were firmly squashed - interaction would be in groups, and girls would definitely not be allowed off school property in term time for one on one dates with individual boys. The staff had unilaterally refused the added responsibility of monitoring individual girls' private lives to that extent, although they would permit written correspondance with parental consent.
Several of the mistresses had decided to leave, unhappy with the changes and the direction in which the school was moving. Miss Charlesworth was going as were Miss Barton, Miss Desmoines and Matron Duffin. There were to be some new hires as well. The board had decided to prohibit the promotion or holding back of a student more than one year out of their age group without extreme circumstances, and were hiring several mistresses to provide intensive remedial work for lagging students and those with problems with languages, as well as a new position to arrange for enrichment options for the young but advanced students. Parents would also be clearly informed that the school's language policies, while ultimately beneficial, could result in a temporary set back in progress in other subjects.
There were also plans to hire several full time trained counsellors, to keep an eye on student problems and to provide career and personal counselling as needed. One of the younger mistresses was heard muttering, "What, you mean the Joey Maynard Method isn't good enough anymore?" The addition of new staff would free up coaching and supervision time from the current mistresses, making the addition of the new hobbies and other activities possible.
In addition, the school was losing about five percent of its students, mainly those from the most protective and old fashioned of homes. They board predicted that enrollment would be back to its normal levels within a year or two, and that the temporary decrease in enrollment would only be a temporary setback.
Joey was still not happy about the changes but was gradually learning to live with them. Her histronics had had no effect on either Madge, the board, or the staff. Miss Ferrars, after one too many unannounced visits to the main office and staff room, had told Joey in no uncertain terms that the changes were going to go through, that the board had unanimously signed off on the recommendations, as had Madge, and that she was free to send her children to a different school if she found the new policies completely unpalatable. She also formally requested that Joey not visit the school without a prior appointment.
It was highly unlikely that Joey would follow through on that suggestion, as she still had the benefit of free tuition for her daughters as one of the original founding family of the school.