First semester finals set to commence after winter break

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First semester finals set to commence after winter break

Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, first semester finals will commence in the second week of school after winter break.

Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, first semester finals will commence in the second week of school after winter break.

Caroline Judd

Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, first semester finals will commence in the second week of school after winter break.

Caroline Judd

Caroline Judd

Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, first semester finals will commence in the second week of school after winter break.

By Charlotte Zera, Parkway West High School

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Governor Mike Parsons passed a bill in July that will allow school to start only 10 or fewer days before Labor Day. The bill is intended to give families another week of summer vacation and increase tourism in Missouri. 

As a result, the Parkway calendar committee pushed first semester finals to Jan.11 – 14, the second week back to school after the New Year. This schedule is similar to how the school system was 12 years ago.

“I think people were kind of ready for that change [12 years ago],” Principal Jeremy Mitchell said. “I don’t think there was nearly the disagreement level that there is now.” 

Teachers have expressed concern for the impact of the schedule change on the grades of their students, especially Advanced Placement (AP) teachers.

“I think it will have a [negative] effect on my AP [students’] grades [because] we are all going the same number of school days, but it’s just all shifted around.” AP Calculus AB teacher Christy Moellering said. “I’ll need some adjustment period–I think it will take me a few years to adjust.”

Because AP exams are on the same date and time each year across all schools in America, AP teachers have less time to get through the curriculum before AP exam times.

“We don’t reap any benefits from it. We only have negative effects from it if you’re an AP teacher,” Moellering said. “As teachers, we are working together to try and figure it out. We are wondering: ‘how are we going to make this fit?’ and ‘are we going to have to take anything out?’ But, teachers are pretty good at adjusting.”

Mitchell feels that there will be some scheduling issues with fall sports. Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) has contracts with venues years in advance, meaning that sports scheduling will not be changing for the new schedule in 2020. This interferes with the goal of having increased time for families to spend on vacation because fall sports will cut into that.

“They can’t move it back because they don’t have wiggle room,” Mitchell said. “So really, if you’re involved in a sport, [the schedule] is not going to change–you’re going to lose out on that.”

Some believe the new schedule may help students’ schedules, especially around December. Chemistry and environmental science teacher Amy Van Matre-Woodward believes that the packed schedules that typically occur around the wintertime may become less stressful with the new schedule.

“From a parent and teacher standpoint, I can see what has to happen in December. A lot of people are participating in things like winter concerts and performances, and the senior class is applying to college,” Van Matre-Woodward said. “There’s a lot that happens in December, so I think some students will feel relieved that [first semester] finals are after winter break.”

Junior Ariej Rafiq, who is enrolled in five AP classes, believes that the new schedule will lead to sacrificing some of her winter break to study for finals.

“If I abandon my studies altogether, I would most likely forget them by the time [I take them], so I will force myself to study a lot over winter break,” Rafiq said. “If I have to travel or if I want to spend the time just relaxing or taking a break from school altogether, that will be much more difficult [to do].”

On the other hand, some have considered the positive effect that the extra time to study will have on their finals grades.

“It might help,” Rafiq said. “There’s the drawback of having to cut away that free time in order to study the material and make sure you don’t forget it, but I’ll have more time to study.”

Because the bill itself was centered around increasing tourism in Missouri, some feel that Missouri businesses did not sufficiently consult the education sector in this decision.

“I don’t like the fact that educators weren’t consulted on it,” Van Matre-Woodward said. “It had all to do with the tourism business.”

Concerns have been raised if rural communities in Missouri will have any benefit from the bill. Mitchell believes that these rural, farm-based communities should determine their own school schedule based on their agrarian needs.

“I liked it more when the local schools’ Board of Education determined when they can start school,” Mitchell said. “Why should St. Louis tell some small district how they should do business because we don’t know, and they shouldn’t tell us.”

Teachers and administrators have recognized the concerns one might have about having to study over break but hope that students will be able to have a break.

“[I think that] kids are going to spend it trying to get caught up and trying to get ready for finals,” Moellering said. “When finals were before [winter break], it was truly a break, and I think everybody needs that.”

This story was originally published on Pathfinder on December 20, 2019.