The Second COVID-19 Exam Season is Almost Here


Photo courtesy of Vian Fuday

The typical notes for a student, minus the iPad, taken on Friday, March 19th, the last day of final exams before the spring break quarter ends. These notes for various tests and projects would come invaluable to many a student in an online setting who’s unable to ask any questions if the teacher. It’s definitely different than previous setups, but to quote Silver Creek High School science teacher Dan Kloster, “It is what it is.”

In schools across the country, everyone sits at computers. At Silver Creek High School, many are at home and others are talking to faceless initials on a Webex screen, as they have been for months. The shutdown that began in 2020 has affected all schools. This change in circumstances is more relevant now than ever that another season of midterms and finals is on the horizon.

At the time of this article, spring break and its midterms have passed, but the next challenge isn’t far off. Within the next two months, on May 27th, the school year will be over. The last week or two of that will be devoted entirely to finals. Some teachers say it may be a totally different approach than the traditional pen-and-paper format of past years’ testing.

Dan Kloster, one of the science teachers at Silver Creek High School, has said that the concept of returning to “normal” by the time of finals is highly unlikely. He will be facing the ever-changing nature of the school environment and the fact that many students are still partially or fully online. This is a particularly different challenge for science and lab classes.

“The finals are, like many things in this [school] year, uncharted waters,” he said during an interview.

Teachers are having to alter their plans quite a bit, to accommodate for the fact that they have students who could go into quarantine at any given time. They also know that they may have to do the same. They have to take into account, as well, that some students are completely unable to come to the school. Kloster projects that in the future, hands-on labs for science classes will have to be done through video conferencing, an element never handled that way before.

One of the Silver Creek academic counsellors, Whitney Mires, agrees.

She predicts that many finals this year will look less like traditional tests and more like projects and portfolios. Distance learning has caused strain on the ability to maintain academic integrity. Where schools might have been able to verify that in the past, there is no way to certify it against cheating when students have fully online resources at their fingertips. As such, testing can be assumed to be an unreliable method. This method may see a continuation in future years.

“We’ll continue to see the fallout [of COVID and online learning] for years as it comes, and we’ll just keep working with it,” Mires said on the impact of COVID-19 within the school system. These are certainly unprecedented times for students to keep up with.

However, while online schooling and the upcoming tests are a struggle and source of panic for many students, it is not the case for all of them.

“Online schooling has helped in my experience,” Rachel Botelho, a senior at Silver Creek High School learning at home full-time said. “It’s let me go at my own pace but still turn things in on time.”

Botelho has stated that she isn’t very worried about the upcoming tests and finals. She has gotten used to testing and project environments while working from home to keep her family safe. She thinks it might actually be a bit easier for her and some—“not most, but some”—of her fellow students. There are students on both sides here.

The stress of finals coming up is a heavy weight on many student’s shoulders in addition to the weight of a pandemic. Teachers and students both feel it. Mires, as a counselor, find that she also does a lot of emotional counseling in addition to traditional academic advising, particularly during this time.

“Academics are secondary to students’ emotions,” Mires said on the matter.

It is certainly true that this time has been a rollercoaster for everyone involved, but the academic counselors plan to meet within the next few weeks about the challenges ahead, the teachers are ready to be flexible, and the students are prepared.