The Final(s) Countdown

With new schedule implemented, final exams to occur after winter break

A+graphic+of+a+pencil+and+a+note+card+depicts+study+tools+used+for+final+exams.

Design by: Keithan Sharp

A graphic of a pencil and a note card depicts study tools used for final exams.

Keithan Sharp, Editor-in-chief

This year, finals week is scheduled for Jan. 13-15. In order to account for the required number of educational hours mandated by the state of Kansas, first semester will extend after winter break, leaving students with a 12 day hiatus from an educational environment before they prepare for finals week.

Math teacher Randi Williams said the entire school year has been full of new experiences, so finals will just be one more obstacle to tackle.

“I think it probably would have been better in December, but I understand why it’s in January,” Williams said. “Honestly, it might be kind of cool to see new things in January, just to see that retention over time; see if we remembered it from what we did in December.”

Freshman Kayla O’Connell will be taking her first high school finals this January, but she said because of the Coronavirus, she isn’t as prepared this year as she would like to be.

“In eighth grade we were supposed to take mock finals and we never got to because of COVID, and I just feel like we might not be as prepared,” O’Connell said. “I don’t know if we’re going to be taking them at home possibly; I really don’t know what to expect.”

Even students who have taken finals before are limited in ways they can prepare for this year. Senior Ben Hansen said he expects less pressure to come along with the new date for finals.

“I expect them to be easier than the finals I’ve taken my previous years of high school because of online learning,” Hansen said. “I think the classes in general have been easier this year, so I think finals will be the same.”

Hansen said he has been less motivated to do anything school-related this year, so he doesn’t plan to study over his winter break.

“I mean if you think about it, the finals in January are one week after we’ve been back, so what are they going to do in one week?” Hansen said. “I don’t get it; they should just do it before winter break.”

The format for school has been fluid all year, so teachers have had to change how they go about teaching to accommodate everyone in a hybrid – and now distance – classroom.

“[During hybrid,] I just teach with the in-person people, and then the people at home watch a video,” Williams said. “I like that because then I can be more personable with the people in front of me, and otherwise I’d be like ‘there’s too much going on,’ so I feel like I’ve built a better environment in the classroom because it’s kind of cozy, as opposed to me being all over the place.”

O’Connell said she also enjoyed the hybrid learning experience because she enjoyed the downtime that comes with at-home learning.

“I like the variation of going to school a couple days and maybe waking up early and having a schedule, and then I like it being a little more low-key the next couple of days and being able to sleep in and just relax a little bit more,” O’Connell said.

The school district releases learning modes one month at a time, which has been met with mixed reviews from students and teachers. Williams enjoys knowing the schedule for an entire month is set in stone, even if she can only plan one month out.

“It’s been nice to know the full month is going to be a certain way, so I’ve really enjoyed that,” Williams said. “It’s been OK just because we know as teachers not to plan too much so that we know, ‘hey, we need to stop planning at this day,’ so it’s good to have that timeline.”

However, for students juggling multiple activities, one month is not enough foresight in the schedule.

“That’s really frustrating trying to figure out my work schedule when I don’t know what days I’m going to be at school,” Hansen said. “That is very frustrating.”

O’Connell said the late start to the school year is still being felt by the freshman class, so delaying finals was a necessary step to off-set the October start to school.

“I’m still learning my way around to classes and stuff, and that usually, I’m sure, wouldn’t be the scenario in a normal year,” O’Connell said. “I think it was a very good decision, they definitely needed to move [finals] back since we started so late.”

The math department, along with many others, has had to eliminate certain parts of the curriculum to keep from falling behind this year. Delaying finals week gives about two more weeks of learning time before the first semester ends.

“We’ve been taking away big unit tests for a lot of our classes, so that’s given us the time, and some of the projects we would have done, we can’t do that this year, so that’s also given us time,” Williams said. “We’re caught up, but we haven’t taken the chance to do those big projects.”

Even though some students are concerned about finals occurring after winter break, the decision to move finals allows for more time to learn the material and make up for the delayed start to the school year.

“[The amount of material taught] is dependent on when finals are, so if finals were moved up we’d be way behind,” Williams said. “So that is the good thing about finals, we’re keeping on track with that.”