Staff Editorial – May Issue


Money can’t buy love, but it can buy more technologically advanced school supplies, improved bathroom facilities, provide a bigger spending budget in extracurricular activities and allow for smaller class sizes. Eanes is losing more than $100,000 every single year because of low attendance during finals week due to exemptions. You’re probably shocked. It just doesn’t sound plausible. That is the equivalent of two teachers’ salaries. But think about it for a minute — freshmen can exempt one final, sophomores two, juniors three and seniors can exempt all of them. Now factor in the number of students that are taking AP tests and are automatically exempt from those finals as well.  With such a substantial number of students absent during finals week, it’s easy to see how that would add up and cause the district to be losing a pretty penny.

Time for the bad news — take a second and emotionally prepare yourself.

There will most likely be an amended finals policy implemented next year, allowing for fewer (or possibly zero) exemptions. But before you grab a Kleenex box and start sobbing, take a deep breath and calm down. Here’s the good news: if we come up with alternatives to taking finals that would ensure that the school district would still get paid for our attendance during finals week, the exemption policy may not change. We need to brainstorm cheap, fun alternatives to bubbling in an answer document. However, if you decide that these activities just aren’t as fun as sitting at home, there will be a price to pay. We would only need to stay for a few hours in order for the district to gain revenue, and that’s really not so terrible. If we can’t figure out a solution, we might have to take all of our finals. Exemptions might not exist. Instead of that nightmare, here are some options that the district could implement to keep us at school during the last week of the semester:

Movie day — Let’s be real, if you aren’t taking a final you’re probably at home watching a movie, so why not do the same thing with the rest of your classmates at school? If we screened a variety of films in the PAC and Chap Court, it would be a cheap and painless way to avoid testing. Popcorn and candy could be offered as well.

Junior class college visit — A substantial number of graduating seniors plan to attend the University of Texas this coming fall, and that number probably will not decrease by next year. With such interest in the college that’s just 20 minutes away from Westlake, surely taking a tour of the campus would be a beneficial experience for juniors and a welcomed alternative to taking finals. And if burnt orange just isn’t your color, that’s not a problem either. You can visit Texas State, Concordia or St. Edward’s.

Workshops — The school could invite mentors to help with preparing college applications and essays. These sessions could teach healthy study habits to underclassmen and reduce stress for everyone.

Junior career day — This is usually held during the second semester of junior year, but it would be just as effective to hold it as an alternative to finals.

Mock TED Talks — These speeches are often moving, inspirational and thought provoking. Quite a few students are willing to speak in front of their peers. So sit in that cushioned chair in one of the PAC halls and let your fellow classmates’ motivational words wash over you, with nary a Scantron in sight.

Video games — How many students spend their days off during finals week with a controller in their hands? Set up a variety of consoles, let kids play or compete in tournaments like Mario Kart, Wii Sports, Guitar Hero, Smash Bros, Street Fighter, Trials Fusion and Halo and watch the money flow in.

Graduation rehearsals — Seniors already have to meet to rehearse for graduation during finals week. This wouldn’t be a change; now it would count for attendance.

Senior field trip — We know that seniors are absolutely dying to finally leave high school and be completely independent, but don’t pretend that you won’t miss your buddies from the four most emotionally traumatic years of your life. What better way to spend one of your last days at Westlake than a day trip with your friends?

Service projects — Many students at Westlake are on the track to acquiring the 70 community service hours required in order to get a cord at graduation. It makes sense to have a school day for participating in a service opportunity of your choosing and grabbing a few more hours.

Taking at least one final — It isn’t going to kill you. If the school required every student to take even just one final per semester, it could gain revenue. Currently, some seniors go all year without taking a single final. Once they go to college, that is not an option. Having to prepare for a final exam could actually be beneficial.

Study hall — During all of these activities, the library could be open for studying. Attendance could be taken via a sign-in sheet, and being at school wouldn’t take away valuable study time.

Here’s the point: unless we collectively think up enjoyable activities that we wouldn’t mind participating in during finals week, we will have no choice but to resign ourselves to the arduous task of taking most of our finals. Although it’s hard to accept the possibility of Westlake’s beloved exemption policy slipping away, it is going to happen. None of us want this, but no amount of fist shaking, screaming expletives or banging our heads against the nearest available surface will change it. The most we can do is work together to improve it.