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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Construction Chaos: Seniors Grapple With Distractions During IB Exams

The completed foundation of Le Centre Brown, the science building in construction on the Tregaron campus. (Naomi Breuer/International Dateline)

After pushing through a grueling two-year program, IB students must take the culminating IB exams. These exams are extremely important, as they determine a student’s final IB score and collegiate future. The Class of 2024 is preparing for their upcoming exams, beginning at the end of April and continuing through May. With the exams already demanding difficult and extensive study preparation, this year’s seniors have to embrace a unique challenge: the construction of WIS’s new science building, Le Centre Brown.

Head of School Suzanna Jemsby, who has been heavily involved in the design of the building, believes that the building will greatly enhance the student experience at WIS, but she understands that the construction has had a major impact on the current state of campus.

“The big impact is to students during recess time, losing the basketball court and [soccer] field, two huge pieces,” Jemsby said.

In addition to impacting recreational areas, the construction has influenced numerous other aspects including the removal of parking spaces, lunch tables, the meeting space in the Dacha and several walkways, all of which result in increased congestion on campus.

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In light of this, WIS has still been able to continue teaching its students productively, without many classroom alterations.

“We are lucky because most school construction involves mobile classrooms for a year or so,” Jemsby said. “We haven’t had to do that.”

The construction process is currently in an active and noisy state, as the structural framework is under construction, according to Director of Facilities and Operations Dale Temple, the building’s project manager.

“From now until the end of the school year we will continue bringing the building out [of] the ground,” Temple said. “Most of the work during this time is concrete pouring. We hope to have the building topped out by late June.”

With the goal of topping out, which means reaching the building’s final height, by around the end of this school year, the 2024-25 school year will likely have less visual and auditory disruption.

“We should be at the place where by June the building will look, from the outside, complete,” Jemsby said. “Next school year will be all about the filling in of the building’s interior.”

But seniors must face the task of taking their IB exams amid the heavy construction continuing throughout this semester.

Between February and March, seniors took their Mock IB Exams. During the exams, some seniors were significantly distracted by the construction activity.

“During Mocks, the blinds were open, and I got really distracted by the construction,” senior Ava Gonzalez said.

Considering that the exams are held in the AAA Building’s classrooms, which directly overlook the construction area, disruptions to students can easily occur.

“It’s difficult to visually ignore the construction when sitting by the window, as watching the crane move and the construction workers’ work can be easily distracting,” Gonzalez said.

Senior Antonio Giorgianni had a similar experience but was more impacted by the construction’s noise.

“[It was] loud,” Giorgianni said. “It is a construction site, so noise is bound to happen, but when they start drilling while I’m trying to solve partial differential equations, it can get disruptive.”

He continued to express his frustration with the construction noise, specifically noting how continuous sounds affected him throughout the exam.

“You can be locked in [on the exam], but if you pick up on one small sound, you don’t stop hearing it, and it gets really annoying,” Giorgianni said.

These types of disruptions can be particularly burdensome for students who have attention deficit challenges such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Gonzalez is worried that the administration has not conveyed much on the matter.She hopes that the school takes action to ensure IB exams are a less distracting test-taking experience than the Mock Exams.

“I’m concerned that the school will not do anything about it,” Gonzalez said. “I want them to do at least something,”

As co-president of International Student Union (ISU), Giorgianni regularly engages with the school’s administration. In terms of dealing with the distractions during the IB exams, Giorgianni is disappointed with the administration’s approach.

“I don’t expect a resolution to be perfect because the situation is imperfect,” he said. “I just want the administration to make an effort.”

So far, Giorgianni feels that the administration has not properly communicated with him or the senior class about the situation.

“It’s kind of been radio silence to this point,” he said. “I’m in a position of grade leadership, so I have heard back-and-forth as they try to figure out what they are going to do about the construction. It is almost like they are ignoring it or hoping that it won’t affect us.”

The shortcomings of the new science building’s construction has not only impacted Mock Exams and, potentially, the upcoming IB exams, but has also placed an additional burden on the Class of 2024’s study and relaxing environment. One of the perks that comes with being a senior at WIS is having access to the Senior Longe (Slounge), which is an area exclusively designated for seniors. This school year, the Slounge has also been impacted by construction on campus.

“In past years, the Slounge has been a place to chill, and a big part of the Slounge is the patio area outside,” Giorgianni said. “Even until now, [the outside area] has been completely closed off and hoarded by the construction for no real apparent reason.”

Associate Head of School Natasha Bhalla, who is in charge of back filing and supporting the Tregaron masterplan after the building’s construction, is excited about the future of the new science building. While she believes it will greatly improve the campus, she also recognizes the current unfavorable conditions.

“The [building] is going to be transformative,” Bhalla said. “But when you are looking to do such a significant construction project, it’s hard to minimize any kind of disruption.”

The administration says the construction plan will not be changed to improve test-taking conditions.

“There aren’t many things we can reschedule or minimize while still following safety requirements and project schedule,” Temple said.

Bhalla made it clear that the administration has evaluated ways of reducing any distractions during the IB exams, yet this is still minimal.

“We are aware of the fact that these exams are happening,” Bhalla said. “We are trying to mitigate sound, so we have purchased IB-approved sound-canceling headphones and earplugs. But beyond that, nothing really.”

Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, she remains confident that the exams will be properly conducted.

“We have full belief that we are going to be able to carry [IB exams] out in a really systematic way,” Bhalla said. “It’s definitely not ideal, but it’s doable.”

Although the finished product of WIS’s new science building will significantly enhance the campus for future students at the school, the Class of 2024 has experienced numerous setbacks that could have a significant impact on their futures. Seniors will have to navigate the IB exams, the culmination of two years of work, all while major construction is happening in the background.

“We are all put in a difficult situation because of the construction,” Giorgianni said. “The new building is obviously necessary for the progression of the school, so there are going to be some drawbacks no matter what.”

By Derin Kirtman

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Derin Kirtman
Derin Kirtman, Print Publications Editor/MS News Adviser

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