The Final Countdown–Discussing Next Year’s Finals Schedule

Jessica Apple, Managing Editor

It’s January, and most DHS students have put this year’s first semester exams behind them. Whether students are disappointed with their performance or feel like they rocked their finals, the week of school before finals week was undeniably a stressful period for most of us. In fact, it seemed like the checklist of things we should have been doing had no end in sight.

Uneven semesters is a major issue. The week before finals, I knew multiple students, myself included, who had made themselves physically ill with the stress of having a test in nearly every class with finals studying on top of it. There were just too many things students had to put their effort into, and being pulled in all directions was, for many DHS students, an overwhelming amount to handle. 

The District Advisory Committee (DAC), who makes the District 113 calendar decisions each year, has attempted to fix the issue of uneven semesters by adjusting next school year’s start and end dates. Even so, second semester is planned to be 13 school days longer than first semester, resulting in first semester being more than two and half week’s worth of material shorter. No longer can teachers stick with the same lesson plans as two years prior, and semester-long classes perhaps teach a different difficulty level and amount of content depending on in which semester they’re offered.

Let’s briefly discuss the DAC’s decision to move District 113’s start date even earlier. This year is the first school year I’ve ever experienced with a start date before August 20th. I feel like in elementary school, the school year usually started in the mid 20’s. However, in 2020 school will begin on August 17th, which is even earlier than this year’s start date of the 19th. I understand that the administration is trying to even out the semesters a bit to simplify teachers’ plans, but if the trend of moving the start date earlier to achieve more equal semester lengths continues, there could be a few potential major issues. For instance, there are many fall sports with pre-season practice who need to practice outdoors, and with an earlier start date comes perhaps hotter pre-season temperatures. As a result, it’s possible that many sports would move practice to be early in the morning, and new problems would be created due to competing preferences of practice locations and times across sports.

Additionally, an earlier start date would prove an issue for those who go to camp. Camp typically ends around August 11th, and if school begins any sooner there won’t be a lot of time for students who go to camp to settle in, buy school supplies, and enjoy summer before school starts. Furthermore, campers would then have to leave camp extremely early for sports try-outs or pre-season practice, and perhaps be forced to make the choice between going to camp or participating in a fall sport.

On a different note, maybe I’m biased as a junior, but I’d be lying if I said I’m hoping the class of 2021 graduation date will stay similar to the class of 2020’s date, despite school ending earlier for everyone next year. I am a strong believer in justice, and the only fair thing to do would be to make sure that every year the seniors graduate the same number of days earlier than everyone else, no matter when school ends. I have a freshman sister, and I want to rub in the fact that she has to go to school while I get to sleep in, and perhaps even go out for ice cream, for as long as possible. It’s almost like the less school you have to go to the cooler you feel, and I want to make those underclassmen jealous of me and the entire rest of the class of 2021. The juniors may not yet know exactly when we are going to graduate, but I think I’m being reasonable for wanting an earlier graduation date along with the earlier end date, right?

However, enough criticism. Although I prefer having finals after winter break, I accept that the majority seems to have shifted to supporting this new plan of having finals before break. Mrs. Navickas, a DHS teacher and member of a committee that gathers student feedback on the calendar and suggests to the DAC possible best courses of action, claimed that at least in the near future, finals will remain before break. So really, the issue at hand is how to even out the semesters in order to minimize issues with teachers having to cram tests and information right before first semester finals, and with more information for students to remember and study for second semester finals. 

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix that will make everyone happy. There are a few solutions — all of which with their drawbacks and benefits. My homeroom teacher showed us a list of ideas to solve the uneven semesters issue, although none passed in the DAC for next year. 

One of these ideas included having school start August 5th. Obviously, a lot of students would be unhappy with that one. We would get out of school in mid-May, and the warmest and sunniest month of summer would be spent in a classroom.  Another proposed option was having a start date of August 12th, which is still too early in my opinion, with another week of first semester spilling over into after winter break while finals stay before the break. What would we even do that week? Teachers couldn’t really give quizzes, since we would forget what we learned from three weeks ago. Both those options do, however, answer the question of how to effectively even out the semesters. 

One last idea that comes to mind is to rework the number of days off we have each semester. This wouldn’t fully even them out, but perhaps if we take a day away from Thanksgiving Break, and get rid of an unnecessary holiday here and there school days may become slightly more evenly distributed among the semesters.

I am, however, hopeful that a solution will be reached soon that both students and teacherswill be happy with. The committee that Mrs. Navickas participates in has gathered feedback from DHS students via survey, and the feedback will likely be used to find a way to solve scheduling issues for future school years. Also, according to Mrs. Navickas, the 2020-2021 school year is a bit of an anomaly, and by no means sets a precedent for years to come. However, I am confident that no matter what the future holds for the DHS schedule, we will find a solution that can work for everyone.