End of semester timing is questioned

Steamboat Springs High School is operating on a different schedule this week in an effort to relieve student stress and create a more focused academic environment for students taking final exams.

But while many students and teachers say they like the exam schedule, complaints persist about why students are made to take important tests shortly after returning from winter break.

The school's Nuts and Bolts Committee, comprised of students, teachers, administrators and parents, opted to create and implement the three-day finals schedule based on the success of a final exam schedule used at the end of the 2002-03 school year, assistant principal Mike Knezevich said.

"It was very, very successful," Knezevich said of last year's exam schedule. "It was 100 percent supported by the staff."

Under the schedule, which went into effect Wednesday, only three class periods meet during the school day, as opposed to the five class periods that typically meet under the school's usual schedule. Each of the three periods is 110 minutes long. Class periods on a typical school day are 95 minutes long.

The schedule is intended to reduce stress on students, create an academic focus and mirror a college or university atmosphere, said Knezevich, a member of the Nuts and Bolts Committee.

Very few students will have three finals or tests on the same day under the adjusted schedule, Knezevich said. And because of the way students' schedules are set up, no students have a first period class each day of the final exam schedule, providing an opportunity for them to come to school early and meet with teachers or fellow students to review at least once during the week.

Senior Travis Hodo did exactly that Wednesday, coming to school during an off period in order to work with physics teacher Cindy Gay before a unit test later in the day.

"I really needed some help," Hodo said. "It was pretty nice to have (the extra study time)."

"It allows kids opportunities to meet with teachers," Gay said. "There's just more flexibility in the day for kids to take care of the things they need to take care of."

Junior Carly Helm said she liked being able to come into school late Wednesday and use extra time for studying, but she doesn't understand why students should have to take final exams upon returning from a 12-day break.

"You get to sleep in, get rest and have time to study. I like it," Helm said. But no one studies during break. Then Monday and Tuesday come around and it's like, 'Oh, you have finals this week.'"

Gay also said she disagrees with the way the district's schedule is set up, saying she doesn't believe students or teachers should have to worry about school over breaks.

The beginning and end dates of quarters and semesters are determined by the district's Calendar Committee, not by each district school.

"It would be ideal if you could (have exams) before break," high school Principal Dave Schmid said. The end of the first semester and its accompanying exams usually took place the second week after students returned from Winter Break under past district calendars, Schmid said. The first semester of the 2004-05 school year will end the second week after Winter Break.

The district calendar is determined by a survey sent out to parents by the Calendar Committee. The school year typically begins the Monday before Labor Day, so when Labor Day falls each September can make the difference as to whether the first semester ends the first or second week after winter break.

As with the finals schedule used at the end of last school year, this semester-end finals schedule will be evaluated upon its completion. An online survey about the schedule is available for parents and students on the school's Web site.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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