Petition to change final policy to match other districts gains traction in RSD


Courtesy of Mark Miles

Superintendent Mark Miles announced that the Rockwood School District would be closed on Dec. 17 at 5:25 p.m. on Dec. 16. This cancellation leaves students to take their 1st and 2nd Hour Finals when they return to school on Dec. 18 without in-class study time.

By Hayden Cottrell, Lafayette High School

On Dec. 16, school was canceled for the Rockwood School District (RSD) due to an ice and snow storm. On Dec. 17, school was canceled again. The second snow day, however, caused students to miss their 5th Hour final, which is now scheduled to be made up on Jan. 6. 

The day off on Dec. 17 also led to several school districts around the St. Louis area sanctioning different policies to handle the missed finals by students and the two lost school days when reviewing for the exams were to take place.

In addition, the days off also sparked the initiation of several petitions across the area to change the current finals week, like the one currently circulating in Rockwood that was started by Vidur Vemulapalli, a sophomore at Marquette High School, on Dec. 17. It has gained over 5,000 signatures over the course of eight hours. 

Some districts made the decision to change their policy and made finals only count for students if they would boost a student’s final semester grade. 

For example, the Fort Zumwalt School District posted on their Twitter account the following message: “As you are aware, Fort Zumwalt School District canceled school on December 16 and December 17, 2019, due to inclement weather. As a result, middle and high school students have not had the opportunity to review for finals as scheduled. In order to address this unusual circumstance, final exams will only be used to positively impact semester grades and they will not be used to bring down any individual final semester grade. Students are still expected to attend class and take final exams as scheduled this week.”

They were joined by the Francis Howell and Wentzville school districts in changing their exam policy. 

Fort Zumwalt passed this policy after a petition circulated by their students gained over 3,000 signatures. 

“[Students at Fort Zumwalt] were going to have final reviews on both of the days that were cancelled. So when Francis Howell did the implementation [of final grades not harming a student’s overall grade] for finals, all of my Snapchat friends were saying that it is unfair that we aren’t doing it. Nobody was actually standing up for it, though, so I took the initiative to send the superintendent an email,” Pranav Palaniappan, a freshman in the Fort Zumwalt School District, said. “Then a petition started which got around 3,000 signatures. The next day we got the confirmation that the policy would be implemented.  

Vemulapalli was among the first to create a petition for the RSD. His petition outlasted several others for the RSD area, and has become the main petition for students to sign.

“I started this petition because I saw that Francis Howell and Fort Zumwalt got [a new finals policy], and Fort Zumwalt had the policy change through a petition,” Vemulapalli said.  

Students around the RSD have signed the petition in support of making finals only count towards raising a student’s grade due to the “missed essential final review time” and the fear of “a skewed representation of [students’] grades.”

“I signed the petition because I felt it was unfair. I’ve heard that other school districts around Rockwood have made [it so that] finals can only increase the grades of the student, and so I signed [the petition] because I felt that was unfair to us [students] because we all missed Monday and Tuesday,” Bennet Bradley, a sophomore at LHS, said. 

A common reason students said they signed the petition was due to a lack of study time with teachers. 

“I heard about the petition through a group chat I have with a few of my Lafayette friends, and I was motivated to sign due to the stress these snow days have placed on students. Without the in-class review, many students are doubting themselves and feel unprepared for the finals ahead of them, which make up a fifth of their entire grade,” Jake Dederer, a senior at LHS who signed the petition, said.

Not every student is in support of implementing this policy.

“I work really hard for my GPA, and I’m really proud of it. I don’t want other people to get a free pass when I’ve worked so hard all semester. School isn’t meant for us to keep up with coursework, school is meant to retain information. Finals reflect that, and if it bothers [other students] so much, then they should just ask for a lower percentage [for the final weight] than what the final is currently worth,” Erin Thorley, an LHS junior who didn’t sign the petition, said.

RSD and LHS administrators so far are not planning any changes to the current finals week scheduling. 

The Lancer Feed reached out to both Superintendent Mark Miles and LHS Principal Karen Calcaterra for further comment, but neither have responded beyond replies they sent directly to students who contacted them earlier on Dec. 17.

The petition is currently at 5,500 signatures at the time of posting.

Updated on Dec. 18:

In a statement released to parents across RSD, Superintendent Mark Miles said that the finals week and policy will not change after a petition gathering over 7,000 signatures in favor of changing the finals policy in the district was spread.

“During the past two days, students and parents in the Rockwood community have shared a variety of thoughts regarding Rockwood’s final exam schedule for high schools in light of recent winter weather and school cancellation. The leadership team and I appreciate and value the input received. After consulting with our high school principals, we have decided to proceed with the plans that were developed last week. In the days prior to the winter weather, high school principals explored a number of options while considering the implications for students and staff. Once those plans were developed, they were communicated to each school community prior to leaving for the weekend. Our building administrators are happy to work with individual students and their families through any extenuating circumstances,” Miles said in his statement.

Contributions from Chloe Baker, Sophia Scheller, Jack Weaver, Alex Rozar and Makayla Archambeault

This story was originally published on The Image on December 17, 2019.