Spartan Spot offers students “safe space” to recharge and reconnect


Photo by Naina Srivastava.

Naina Srivastava, Co-Editor in Chief

The Spartan Spot, a technology-free wellness space, is now open to all students during fifth, sixth, and seventh periods.

The space — in room 508 — was previewed to teachers a month ago and opened to students on Thursday. It offers various activities including art, puzzles, fidgets, yoga, and meditation, and can host around ten students at a time. Students may leave class to visit the Spartan Spot for a 10 to 15 minute time frame, then return to class.

If a student does not return to class after the allotted time frame, they will be marked absent by their teacher, according to Assistant Principal Marti McGuirk. The Spartan Spot will be supervised by staff member Gerardo Moreno, who will track entry, exit, data and time duration. Students may also drop in during their free periods.

“A big part of our school’s vision statement is supporting the whole human being and that includes not just academic success but [also] physical, emotional and mental health,” McGuirk said. 

Gerardo Moreno will be supervising the wellness center. Photo by Naina Srivastava

Moreno, a 2009 MVHS graduate, said his job is to make sure the Spartan Spot is not only a safe space, but also remains “sacred.”

“I know sometimes it can feel a little dark, especially in high school and especially right now with everything going on in the world affecting us,” Moreno said. “We’re so overstimulated. That’s why there’s a rule of no technology because you need to unplug to reconnect.”

Ultimately, McGuirk said she hopes the Spartan Spot helps students build preventative skills and resilience, and lifts some of the weight of the school’s “overtaxed” therapeutic services. She said the space is designed to equip students with the skills they need to navigate challenging emotions “successfully.”

“This is not a space where you would come to see a therapist,” McGuirk said. “We would still use the student mental health referral form. This is really a place where … you need a few minutes to gather yourself, to destress, to be able to get back to your day.”

When planning, McGuirk said the administration talked to partners at Palo Alto, Gunn, Los Altos, and Saratoga high schools.

“[The schools we talked to] do not have a limit, so right when they opened they had more of a peak interest,” McGuirk said.

But after the “bright and shiny newness wore off,” McGuirk said things began to stabilize. She expects the MVHS wellness space to experience a similar phenomenon, with an influx of student traffic in the first week that will ultimately dissipate.

Photo by Naina Srivastava

“If we need to adapt and flex accordingly, we will,” McGuirk said. “We are very much … in uncharted territory and new things are endemically exciting and fun and bright and shiny.”

McGuirk said the space is also a helpful tool to identify students who may be struggling.

“If a student were to show up here, same period every day, it’s going to be good data for us to be able to then follow up with that student and say, ‘Hey, it seems like this isn’t a one-time thing. This seems like we’re maybe avoiding a particular class. Let’s talk about what’s going on there and how we can support you in staying there [and] figuring out how to navigate that situation,’” McGuirk said.

Moreno said some introverted students may feel overwhelmed by school, and need to take a break and practice self-care.

“I’d rather you come in here during your free period, color for a bit, then sit outside than just sit outside and watch TikTok videos all day,” Moreno said.

Eventually, she said she hopes the space will also become available to families who need resources and support in the mental health space. In August, the wellness space will be moved to the former college and career center, which McGuirk said will accommodate more individuals.

“Whoever has something negative to say, I just invite them to come in here and give it a chance,” Moreno said.