South students are almost done with the second trimester of the year, and many are excited to be done with finals week and move on to a new term. Students and staff are happy to see that after last term’s introduction of a new final schedule, this term’s schedule has returned to its usual form.
This term, South will hold finals on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of the term. Students will attend periods 1, 3, and 5 on Tuesday; each period is 80 minutes long with 30 minute breaks in between. Then, on Wednesday, students will attend periods 2 and 4; again, each class is 80 minutes long. This schedule allows students to have longer lunches, late starts, and early releases. In addition, students will be able to recuperate in between periods and access extended office hours to talk with teachers.
This schedule was South’s default finals schedule for several years, until last trimester, when South administration replaced it in an effort to comply with an instructional hours requirement. Last year, the Eugene 4J school district found that South, along with Churchill and Sheldon, was one of many schools in the district that did not receive the number of instructional hours mandated by the state. South in particular had one of the largest deficits, receiving 34 hours less than the state minimum.
In order to increase instructional hours, South administration first decided to change the bell schedule for the 2017-2018 school year. Students began school five minutes earlier four days of the week, which was not a large change. However, many students had difficulty adjusting to the new Wednesday schedule, which now began 20 minutes earlier and ended ten minutes later. In addition, Wednesday, which originally had the longest lunch of the week, had the shortest with the new schedule. (It should be noted that lunches on the other four days of the week increased from 35 minutes to 42 minutes.)
By the time first trimester finals rolled around, students had generally adapted to the new bell schedule. However, when it was announced that South would have a new finals schedule as well, both students and teachers were left surprised and puzzled.
The new finals schedule had students attending all five periods on both Wednesday and Thursday, which was a big change from the previous schedule. Periods 1, 3, and 5 were 80 minutes on Wednesday while periods 2 and 4 were 30 minutes. On Thursday, it switched so that periods 2 and 4 were 80 minutes and periods 1, 3, and 5 were 30 minutes.
The new finals schedule brought some bad news for students, such as shorter lunches and no breaks. It also meant longer finals days; while students were able to leave an hour early on Thursday, they also had to stay 15 extra minutes on Wednesday. However, what bothered students the most was that the new schedule did not include late starts.
“I did not appreciate the earlier start time, [as] it was always great to get some extra sleep and study time before a stressful day of testing,” junior Max Ritzow said.
The real reduction came to extended office hours. In previous years, students could meet with teachers three times over the course of the two days, racking up a total of 240 minutes of office hours. This year, students only had one opportunity to come to office hours, for a total of 60 minutes. Extended office hours are especially essential during finals week because students can use that time to turn in make-up work, retake tests, or redo labs. This is the last chance students have to fix their grades before the end of the term.
Another puzzling aspect of the finals schedule was the inclusion of 30 minute classes for periods not taking a final that day. The very short classes meant that several teachers were unable to do meaningful activities with their students.
“Teachers had nothing to do during the short finals periods and it was a complete waste of time,” junior Caitie Connelly said. Other South students agreed; junior Zane Globus O’Hara felt that the new schedule was “annoying”, while junior Katie Soule found the short classes “pointless”.
Though all students were affected by the brand new schedule, IHS students were particularly displeased with it. IHS does not hold finals, since all classes are year-long, which means that it implements its own schedule during finals week. Previously, IHS, whose students take two classes a day along with their regular South courses, would cut an 80 minute period in half so that students would attend both IHS classes during one finals period. This year, IHS decided to keep the same policy of disregarding the South finals schedule so that IHS classes would not be unevenly divided between an 80 minute and a 30 minute class. Classes were 55 minutes and followed their own bell schedule. For one senior literature class, this meant that the South bell rang while they were in the middle of a timed essay.
“It was very disruptive to have a bell ring in the middle of trying to write an essay,” senior Anna Graff said. “It caused panic because people thought they were out of time and the teacher had to … reassure [us] that we had more time.”
Luckily for students, the South administration has decided to revert back to the former finals schedule, complete with longer office hours, longer lunches, and early releases. In addition, Wednesday’s late start means that students can participate in the nationwide walkout against gun violence in the morning without missing class. Though they may have fewer instructional hours, students are still happy to see the schedule change.
“I feel less stressed because I have more time to relax and study in between finals,” junior Olivia Andrew said.