The new exam schedule creates conflicting opinions for the students and faculty at FHC

English teacher Lisa Penninga is worried.

This year during the work-free two weeks of winter break, Penninga believes that, instead, she will be grading papers and tests with the hopes of finishing before Christmas.

“I’m nervous about getting all of my grading done before we leave,” Penninga said. “For me, I celebrate Christmas, [which is] the Tuesday after [we get out], so it’s kind of crunch time.”

Penninga’s concern springs from the new schedule: students at FHC will be taking their exams before the two-week holiday break. This is something that has been in the works for quite some time; however, it wasn’t until this year that it was put into action.

“We have talked about it for a few years now,” Principal Steve Passinault said. “I think the primary reason is to have that clean break and to have semester one finish before the two-week break, and then we said start fresh in January with a new semester.”

However, the “clean break” was not the only goal of this new schedule change. They also wanted to focus on how it would overall benefit the students.

“I think it [will] allow students to truly enjoy the break without having second-semester exams held over their heads,” said Passinault.

While only a few students feel as though this will negatively affect them, others believe that this will benefit them not only in the ability for them to have a free break, but they also think that their exams will be positively affected.

For senior Matt Henriksen, he has had to go through the old exam schedule in which students would take the exams after they came back from break; therefore, this is a substantial change for him, as well as many other seniors. However, he feels as though it will be very beneficial for not only himself but also for all of the other students at FHC.

“I think [taking the exams before the break is going to be] really good because it allows kids to actually be able to take the exam while the content is still fresh in their minds,” Matt said. “What happened with me a lot was I just didn’t study at all over the break, and then I go into exams having taken a big break off and being kind of rusty with the [material].”

In terms of the AP exams that Matt will have to take in the spring, he believes that this new change will overall benefit him in terms of the time he has to prepare for them.

“I think in the long run, it will be helpful for preparing for the AP exams,” Matt said. “We will go into the second semester having a fresh start and a fresh mindset, so when you get to your AP exams, you can segment your thinking into two different blocks from before and after winter break.”

For many of the newer students at FHC—the freshman—this is a very new concept for them. Not only have they never taken a real high school exam before, but they also are having to adapt alongside their teachers in terms of this new change.

However, for many freshmen, including Megan Fox, they believe that this will, in the long run, be beneficial for them in the same way that the seniors think that this will be beneficial.

“I like the new exam schedule because then when you go to winter break you aren’t as stressed out about forgetting information and not remembering it as thoroughly as what you did prior to school letting out,” Megan said. “It leads you to do better and feeling more confident.”

Though there is an abundance of students who believe that this is going to be very beneficial for them, there are also many who say that this schedule will not be ideal for them. Many classes are being affected in a negative way, which is the root of many students’ lack of support.

“It is just very unfortunate for me, and I feel many other students,” senior Rachel Douma said. “Specifically for online, the actual online program has an eighteen-week pacing guide, and I have to finish before that, so I have to work faster and get more work done in a shorter amount of time than we used to be able to.”

Additionally, many classes are having to take units out of the curriculum to fit in the most critical material to be prepared for their respective exams. This, specifically, is impacting the semester-only courses as they don’t have the whole year to work around and therefore have to cut out the not-as-important materials.

As of right now, the only two classes that will be profoundly affected are psychology and AP macroeconomics as they are the two classes that run for semester one only. These two classes are having to take out multiple units to fit in the most essential and crucial information that is necessary for both their regular exams—like psychology—and the AP exams—like macroeconomics. 

As for the other teachers, many have adjusted well to this change while others have unfortunately struggled to fully adapt to how to work around the shorter schedule for the first semester; this seems to be having a very large and noticeable effect on students.

“I think students are feeling stressed right now because some teachers didn’t necessarily plan for [the exam change] and are throwing a lot of work at students because of the loss of time,” Penninga said. 

With this new and well-intentioned change in the schedule, it seems that it could have many more extensive benefits that go beyond high school. 

“I think, especially for kids who are getting ready for college, it’s indicative of what they’re going to see once they [graduate],” said history teacher Steve Labenz. 

With the mixed thoughts of whether this schedule change will overall be beneficial for students, many seem to think that it is merely going to take time for them to adjust to it before they fully embrace it.

“I think that the building is pretty divided,” Penninga said. “I think that there are some people that really liked [the previous] schedule. No one accepts change well, and I think that people usually, with change, struggle to accept it until it becomes the status quo, and then they’re fine with it.” 

There is one common goal that the district and faculty have in their endeavor with this new change: to benefit the students. While it may take time for some to adjust, the overall goal is that this will be helpful for the students and that they will, at some point, fully accept it.

“I really think it is supposed to be better for kids,” Labenz said. “Ultimately, that’s what we are supposed to be doing.”