Lakeview Academy students start their winter break today, three days after their Hall County and Gainesville counterparts.
The schedule pushes their exam week back to Jan. 9-11, said Don Caskey, upper school director.
He said around this time of year, there is "a perfect storm" of holiday and final exam stress.
"We started school a little later this year, so the logical thing for us then was to not have the first semester be two weeks shorter than the second semester," Caskey said. "The more we thought about it, we thought it might be good to take the pressure off the kids."
Three days following winter break are earmarked for review. The first semester for Lakeview will officially end Jan. 11 and second semester starts the next day. Teachers then have a week to grade exams before final grades are due.
"It also gives teachers a chance to gain closure and help the students kind of step back from the day-to-day assignments and look at the whole semester," Caskey said.
Gainesville resident Susan Abee has three children at Lakeview in fifth, seventh and ninth grades.
"The kids have been wrapping up schoolwork and tests but it hasn't been as stressful as it normally would be. When you're finishing up coursework and doing finals, it adds a lot of stress," she said. "There's nothing that's been assigned over the holidays, there's nothing they have to turn in so we truly get to enjoy the holiday. They do already know what they're supposed to study for the finals. ... As we choose to as a family, we'll add some study time in."
Caskey said Lakeview had an exam schedule like this years ago, but the school later fell in with the model of having final exams before winter break.
"There are always concerns when you try something new," he said. "Since most of the material has been covered except for those three days, we don't see a problem with continuity of learning. ... What we have heard about is, ‘Are our students going to forget everything over break?'"
Caskey hopes the three-day review period, plus the holidays to study, will be enough for students to retain what they learned and become comfortable with topics they're struggling with.
"So far it's kind of a wait-and-see. I think the students like it; I haven't had any complain to me," he said. "We've gotten emails from parents that said they were all for it and thought it was a great idea. Some say, ‘We're not sure it's going to work but we're willing to give it a try.'"
Freshman David Abee, one of Susan Abee's children, said he likes having finals after break.
"I think it's a good idea because the holidays — it's too hard to focus ..." he said. "After Christmas is over, you can start focusing on your exams."
David Abee is most concerned about his physics and Spanish finals.
"My physics teacher gave us all the tests that we took and the answers so we can take the tests over and review," he said. "(My Spanish teacher) said to read the chapters and do the exercises."
Caskey said Advanced Placement students might have assignments over break as well.
"Their friends may have gotten out a couple days earlier, but they were working so hard to fit in so much at the end of the semester," Susan Abee said.