Suffolk high school seniors miffed that they’re not getting out a week earlier

Published 6:07 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Saying they were inspired by lessons on “civil disobedience,” some seniors at Suffolk’s public high schools are demanding that a “wrong” be righted.

A long tradition for Suffolk Public Schools seniors is getting out a week early after they have finished their exams. At the beginning of the school year, the class of 2022 was told that their last day would be June 3. However, last week, seniors say they were told their last day of school would be on June 10, the same as everyone else and the day before they walk across the stage to get their diplomas.

Feeling wronged, four senior girls at Lakeland High School decided to do something about it. Alexa Snyder, Savannah Stevenson, Hannah Bass and Maddie Truitt created a petition on Change.org in an effort to get their week back. Even though it started at Lakeland, the girls reached out to friends at King’s Fork and Nansemond River high schools who have diligently spread the word as it affects them all.

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“We want to show that we have been wronged for not having the same opportunity as other seniors,” said Snyder. “In our government class, we learned about civil disobedience when groups have been wronged, and my friends and I feel that we have been wronged.”

The petition received nearly 700 signatures in only four days. Many comments from classmates and community members echoed support for keeping the senior tradition. Some comments validate the annoyance of such a late announcement and others point out that this senior class has already missed out on so much due to COVID-19.

The week reportedly was taken away from the seniors because they are not having final exams. According to Snyder, the seniors last year did not have final exams but still got out a week early.

“We applaud our students for advocating for themselves,” said Anthonette J. Ward, community engagement officer of Suffolk Public Schools. “SPS made the calendar adjustment to provide staff with an opportunity for lost planning time. The early release every other Wednesday does this, which is why we can’t give the seniors additional days at the end of the year. Students and the school community must remember that exams were eliminated, which also eliminated the exam week, and we have 990 clock hours necessary for the Virginia Department of Education for accreditation purposes.”

The students say they are still working with Suffolk Public Schools to see if their petition will carry any weight. They plan on meeting with Lakeland Principal Douglas Wagoner in the coming week to see how far the movement can go. They say they have also received advice and support from School Board members Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck and Sherri Story.

“I am happy to be a Suffolk Public School graduate and I hope they will look at our petition and come to a decision,” said Snyder.

Those interested in signing or learning more can do so at tinyurl.com/SPS2022Petition.