By Danny Wallace ‘21

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been full of immense changes that have hindered the high school experiences of many Brother Rice students. From countless sport cancellations and postponements to extremely modified and limited school events, this school year has been challenging and demanding. Not to mention the fact that we are currently following a hybrid schedule, meaning we are only “in class” half the time. So the question remains: why is the only constant during this hectic time final exams?

When asked about the topic, Student Council Vice President Quinn Clifford shared the sentiments of most of his classmates by saying, “Finals may be more difficult on students this year as we have been expected to learn much more independently when not in the building. We may be stronger on some topics that we learned while physically in school and weaker on topics that we had to learn remotely as a result.”

Imagine only having half of the resources needed to complete a job or project. This is basically what it is like preparing for final exams while on a hybrid schedule. Combine this with a handful of other problems related to e-learning, and you have the dysfunctional learning environment that Brother Rice students had to suffer through this year.

“What e-learning problems could you have faced,” one may ask. Where do I begin? Some classes ignore those online, making it almost impossible to follow lessons that require even minimal thinking. This makes cooperation with the entire class impossible, preventing decision-making as a consensus. Other classes struggle with setting up a Zoom/Google Meet, which wastes class-time and causes these meetings to be a hassle to join or leave.

And then there’s the WiFi and Chromebook problems. Choppy WiFi is bound to ruin your e-learning experience at least once, while online meetings cause the Chromebooks to crash. Almost every student at Brother Rice has encountered these “minor” problems that persisted throughout the entire year.

In my opinion, the primary reason I believe that Brother Rice should not administer final exams this year is because of the added stress they will put students through during a year already filled with an abundance of personal and family sacrifices.

For seniors, these winter exams are the last grades that colleges will see before deciding to admit or deny students. Yes, they will gain experience before taking final exams in college, but what is this experience worth if you do not get admitted to the schools in the first place?

When I asked for a senior to comment on this matter, Grant Matern eloquently said, “In an unusual year the circumstances call for a change in our usual routines. It is too much to ask some students that already struggle in school to deal with being at home for an extended period of time and then expect them to adequately prepare for a full final exam.” Matern, who has had to quarantine for a handful of weeks this semester, feels these setbacks will prevent him from earning the grades he is capable of.

Juniors face a similar obstacle.

Junior Gavin Flood said, “Even before the coronavirus, students have so much pressure on themselves to excel during their junior year. Now, this pressure has grown hugely as we are only in school half the time and still expected to achieve these same results. Also, the kids who are full e-learning are at a giant disadvantage because they do not even have the chance to learn physically at all.”

As a result, I believe that Brother Rice’s decision to administer finals during this pandemic year would be downright unfair to its students because of this ill preparation. I, along with my peers, hope that the chilling exam air avoids us this winter.