For the first time, McNicholas students returned to school after Christmas break to a new semester, having finished their semester exams before leaving for Christmas break.
This is not the first time that first semester exams have been held before break at McNicholas. During the 2003-2004 school year, Principal Tom Bill and his administration moved exams before Christmas break, but the first semester still ended seven days after returning to school. Exams were moved back to January again when Brian Pendergest became principal in 2009. This year, both exams and the end of the semester were moved to before break. As a result of this adjustment, the second semester is nine days longer than the first.
The upside to this change is that the students got a fresh start with the new semester when they returned from break. The downside is that for semester courses, teachers have almost two weeks less in the first semester to teach their curriculum. This change was probably the most difficult on religion teachers.
“It was tricky, especially with the content heavy classes like Hebrew Scriptures,” said religion teacher Sam Roflow. “But we will adjust. If this is seen as better for the school, we are team players.”
Science Department Chair Regina Goines felt that while it was a little stressful on everyone leading up to break, it was an overall good change for the students and the teachers.
“I think it was an excellent change. Students and teachers around here work really hard. I think having two weeks off with nothing to worry about was well deserved,” Goines said.
Director of Curriculum Dan Rosenbaum said he felt despite a few challenges, the decision they made was the most beneficial for everyone at McNicholas.
“With long breaks, it’s nice to bring closure to something you’re doing,” Rosenbaum said. “We felt the pros outweighed the cons, and I think we made the overall best decision.”
How students feel about this change seems to depend on their study habits.
“I liked having exams before Christmas because I didn’t have to worry about studying over break,” said senior Kayla Ackerman. “It gave me more time over break to relax and focus on time with family.”
Junior Madison Hartwell said having exams before break gave her more motivation to study. “I actually studied more with exams before break, because over break I don’t study at all,” Hartwell said. “This year, I studied a lot the week before and then reviewed each night, rather than cramming the night before each test.”
Junior Margaret Beck, on the other hand, missed having time to study over break. “There’s too much going on right before Christmas, and I didn’t have enough time to study,” Beck said.
Goines and Roflow both said they didn’t notice any significant difference between this year’s exam results and last year’s when exams were after break. Either way, Rosenbaum said they would continue with this schedule for the next couple of years. “You have to do it for a couple of years to analyze what the effects are. We’ll definitely do it next year.”