Semester Break at SPHS Ends in December For First Time

Change in calendar places examinations prior to two-week winter vacation

PHOTO: Lily Anderson | | South Pasadena High School at dusk

In what school officials are calling a first, the semester break at South Pasadena High finished last week with final examinations.

For as long as anyone can remember, finals at SPHS were always scheduled for the end of January after students returned from the two-week winter vacation.

“What we’ve been hearing for years from parents and students is that over winter break students were having to study for finals exams,” explained South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “They come off doing all their college applications, go into the winter break and don’t get a break.”

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Rather than spending time with family and having some down time in the past, Yantz said students were traditionally gearing up for finals. “The level of anxiety and stress certainly increases,” he explained. “In an effort to try and limit that stress and anxiety, it was decided to provide students with some down time over the two weeks.”

Yantz is optimistic he will hear nothing but positive comments from those affected by the change when students return on Tuesday, January 9, for the start of the second semester.

“For the first time, this is a break from school responsibilities and I hope that translates into a really great time for all people involved,” explained South Pasadena High Principal Janet Anderson.

PHOTO: Lily Anderson | | SPHS buildings

Anderson said the idea of finals before winter break will be easier in future years now that students have already made the transition in 2017.  “I think after this initial year it won’t be a big deal for people,” she said. “I think they’ve taken it on this year in a good way with the right attitude. We’ll be evaluating how this worked out for everyone, but I hope in the evaluation people will take into account both the benefits as well as the things that are one time issues during the change.”

Victoria Venardi, 17, a senior at South Pasadena High says she has mixed feeling about ending the semester with finals prior to the holiday break. “This is college application season, so basically you have both at once with college applications and finals,” she said. “But I do like the idea of not having to worry about all the semester one curriculum over the break.”

Venardi pointed out that first semester at the high school is now approximately two weeks shorter than the upcoming second semester. “First semester is more crammed than the longer second semester,” she said, saying it will be an adjustment for students and students.

Isabel Bluml, 17, also a senior, said she likes the idea of finals before the break “because I can actually enjoy my Christmas vacation and not have to worry about finals,” she explained.

Dhruv Vansadia, 17, a senior, is pleased to put a pair of advanced placement (AP) finals behind him in December instead of waiting until January to take them. “Not worrying about anything over the break is better,” he said.

Freshman Haelee Kim, 15, also prefers finals before the break “so we don’t have to worry about anything.”

Jeff Chi, who teaches math at SPHS, said while students might be in favor of ending the first semester with finals, the teachers “are having a little difficult time because they’re used to covering so much material,” he explained. “Since the first semester is shorter, they have to cut down on their material as well and make adjustments in how much they teach. Some are trying to cram it all in. It’s going to take a little time to get used to it, but eventually I think everyone will be okay with it.”