Should PDS Have Extended The Semester?

February 27, 2022

No, They Should Not Have

The end of a semester is a date that every student looks forward to — whether that be for grades, or just the relief of the long school term finally being over. However, due in part to the mass absences of students in early January, thanks to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the semester end date was pushed back from January 14 to January 21. While there were some pros to extending the semester, there were also many cons that far outweighed them. 

One of the biggest issues with pushing back the end of the semester was the extra trouble it caused for teachers. Although the extra week might have sounded trivial, for teachers that had each future class planned out it was extremely cumbersome to change their entire schedule. Upper School English teacher Dr. Estes said that, “For the teachers, it was a bit inconvenient because we had to scramble to figure out our next couple classes for the extra week.” Even though it might have been only a few extra classes, for teachers like Dr. Estes who like to plan out their classes, days, and even weeks in advance and have a set schedule, this caused a significant hassle. The removal of this extra week from the second semester also affected scheduling for that.

The change in mindset caused by the extension was another downside of pushing back the ending date of the semester. Everybody had expected the end of the semester, and the end of their worries about grades, to come on the 14th. To be told that they would have to wait a whole extra week was extremely nerve-wracking, and affected their mindsets towards studying and working. Freshman Sophia Simms stated that, “I was looking forward to getting my grades on Friday, but then I was told that I would have to wait a whole extra week.”

Extra work for teachers, the mindset of students, and trouble with scheduling proved to be the worst aspects of the decision. Admittedly, however, when asked whether or not they agreed with it, most people reported that they liked the choice. Thus, although there were some people that liked and agreed with the end of the first semester being pushed back, there were also many cons to it that are also important to consider. 

 

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Yes, They Should Have

The start of the New Year held new possibilities, new beginnings, and an end to what the world as we know it —the “new normal.” Despite this, the first three days of 2022 felt the same as when the COVID-19 lockdown began in 2020. COVID cases were rising, students were missing school, and, to put it bluntly, it was a time of chaos. However, the school recognized that many students were under significant pressure and took a stand to extend the semester for an additional week, providing  students with comfort and time to settle and uncover everything going on around them. 

With so many students and teachers out, we need more time to catch up on our work; the extension of the semester allowed just that. Freshman Addison Figel shared, “Omicron was a very unexpected thing, and it was a big shock to everyone.” She also stated that while she was lucky to stay in school, about half of of teachers and students were missing in each of her classes: “There was a guy who had a list of names on his clipboard of people who were close contacts, and he would just come to the room, say your name and motion for you to leave the room. And then you were just sent home.” She continues, “You would see kids sitting by the security desk waiting for their parents to pick them up.” When the week was extended Figel stated that, “I could actually breathe, have more time to prepare, and I didn’t feel as overwhelmed.” The perception of what was happening, particularly in the school setting between students and teachers, was very similar. 

The extension of the semester allowed students to have more time and be more prepared, which was PDS’s goal from the very beginning. When asking English teacher Caroline Lee about the positive outcomes that she saw in students after the news of the extended semester, she said “There was a relief amongst students, and students were not cramming as much. I also understood how the extension of the semester helped remote students especially if students were worried about missing class, information, or having trouble accessing teachers.” Furthermore, she added how she was able to spend more time with students, especially juniors and seniors taking semester courses: “It was nice to have students just for a little bit longer.” 

The period of uncertainty that came with the start of 2022 was certainly not helpful for anyone involved. But in spite of that, PDS took the time to understand how students were feeling mentally and physically and made a decision which helped students and teachers manage these hard times together, and for that, we can all be grateful.

 

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