Students at Pine Bluff High School on Tuesday protested what they described as a new semester schedule that keeps them in school longer instead of allowing them to leave early in the afternoon during exam week. They should have done their homework before protesting.

Students at Pine Bluff High School on Tuesday protested what they described as a new semester schedule that keeps them in school longer instead of allowing them to leave early in the afternoon during exam week. They should have done their homework before protesting.

While we don’t always agree with school officials — sometimes they drink from the same water fountain as Pine Bluff City Hall – because they often experience problems communicating information to parents and students.

However, this is one clear instance where the administration is right and the students are wrong.

In the words of the PBHS student protesters:

“I am a senior and every year that I have been a student here the schedule for semester exams was that we would take our first test then have about an hour and a half to study or get something to eat, then come back and take the second test, and then get out for the day at around 1:15,” said student Patrick Grady. “We were just told in first period today that we will have to stay in class until the regular end of the school day at 3:20 during exam week and the first day of exams is tomorrow (Wednesday).”

One student displayed a message written on a piece of paper: “I Need a Rest Before the Test Why Did PBH start this mess!?! #Protest”on one side and “What I Suggest; Change the schedule for Semester Test!!!!” on the other.

The latter might consider taking an English class with emphasis on punctuation. And a nap.

We don’t know if Pine Bluff Superintendent Jerry Payne or PBHS officials explained the full day schedule for exam week in advance to students, but it has been discussed at school board meetings. The state Department of Education brought the issue up during the administration of former Superintendent Frank Anthony.

Grady was correct in noting in the past students were allowed to leave early each day during exam week. The district was in error with the abbreviated day.

As Payne correctly noted, Section 10.01.4 of the state rules and regulations establishing standards for accreditation of public schools plainly states that “the planned instructional time in each school day shall not average less than six (6) hours per day or thirty (30) hours per week.”

It is fairly simple: Each school day must be six hours long, excluding lunch periods. Those six hours represent planned instruction time per school day. We looked, but could not find an exemption for the week of semester finals.

Pine Bluff’s school calendar is at the minimum number of 178 days in the school year. Expanding the minimum number of days has been discussed on the state level, but usually gets nowhere because of opposition from teachers, not students.

Every hour cut from instructional time during those 178 days must be made up under existing state regulations. None of the protesters volunteered to attend additional days of school in exchange for being allowed to leave the campus early during exam week.

Payne said he planned to convey to administrators, teachers and staff at the high school the state attendance requirements. He is optimistic if he thinks that pill will be swallowed easily.

A lesson in life is learn to improvise or being able to adapt to changing situations. Critical thinking should be a mandatory course at all junior and senior high schools, not an option.