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Whether dashing off to visit relatives or sticking around town with friends, most at HHS are happy the holiday break is almost here.

CTE office clerk Zina Crowder will be enjoying it with her family.

“My son, his wife and my grandbabies will be coming home from California for the holidays,” Crowder said. “Most of our family hasn’t seen them in three years, so we’re excited.”

Trinity Palms, a senior, will also spend time with family. “Every year my family comes to my house and we drink hot chocolate while reading Psalms 100,” she said.

Meg Sewell, a junior, will be singing Christmas carols at her church on Christmas Eve. “Oh, and I’m also going to see Cirque du Soleil with my brother and parents,” she added.

Many will be visiting family in other states. Katie Rathert is going to Illinois, Cleo Graham to Florida and Hannah Atwood to Georgia. All three girls are sophomores.

But of course, not everyone has definite plans for the holidays.

 “No plans are the best plans,” said Assistant Principal Christy Wall. “I have two small kids, so we do holiday festivities to the nines. We just play it by ear.” 

Officer worker Becky Sanders will also be home for the holidays, though she’s dreaming of a warm, sunny Christmas.

“I’d like to go to Disney for the holidays,” Sanders said through laughter. “I wish Santa would bring me a trip to Disney for Christmas.” 

Assistant Principal Thomas Oglesby should win an award for busiest Christmas break. He’ll spend Christmas Eve at his in-laws' house, Christmas morning at his own house, then he’s off to his sister’s house in Gallatin. On December 27th, he’ll celebrate his 37th birthday before going to Ohio to visit his wife’s grandparents.

A college football fan, Oglesby said he’s also looking forward to watching ball games while ringing in the New Year – that is, if he finds a moment to sit down.

No matter what your plans for break, The Ville News wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Story by Bailey Guy and Carly Lancaster

More than half of HHS seniors have been touched by the national opioid crisis, a recent survey suggests.

Twenty-one of 40 HHS seniors randomly surveyed said they knew someone struggling with opioid addiction. The informal survey, which was conducted for a dual enrollment English class at the school, did not specify the subject’s relationship to the addict - whether the person was a family member, friend or acquintance.

The same students were asked whether opioid addiction is a problem in Hendersonville, and 29 of them (73 percent) answered “yes.”

Hendersonville Police Officer Timothy Roller said he encounters someone at least once a week who is “either in some kind of medical distress over opioids or has been involved in a crime and the driving factor behind it, say shoplifting, is opioids.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 90 Americans a day (about 33,000 a year) die after overdosing on opioids, a classification of drugs that includes prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, heroin, and fentanyl.

To put the figures into context, consider that 58,200 Americans lost their lives during the entire Vietnam War.

“It’s getting worse,” Roller said of the problem in Hendersonville. “I don’t have any specific numbers on where we stand but it seems like two years ago we never saw anything like this; now, if we arrest a shoplifter it is unusual not to find loaded needles, heroin or pills.”

Story by Giulia Giordani, Kayla Delk and Kelsey Dotson

Right up there with “Will this count for a grade?” and “Oh, when was that  assigned?” one of the most common questions teachers get this time of year is “Can I be exempt from the final exam?”

The answer is, “It all depends.”

The school handbook says students may be exempt from a final exam (not a state-mandated End Of Course test) if he or she has an A average and no more than three absences of any kind; a B average and no more than two absences; and a C average and no more than one absence.

But if only it were that simple. The handbook goes on to say that students may not have a combination of more than five tardies/early dismissals; may not have any in-school (ISS) or out-of-school (OSS) suspensions; and may not have any zeroes on assignments.

And then there is the biggest catch of all: “A teacher may require a student to take the final exam if the teacher feels it is in the academic interest of the student,” the handbook states.

In other words, teachers have a huge amount of discretion when it comes to exam exemptions. Some go along with the policy as outlined in the handbook, while others say, “No exemptions, period.”

Math teacher Jennifer Kotler falls into that latter category. “I want to have a grade that I can control and a test that I can have prepared so that it’s in the best interest of my students,” Kotler said.

French teacher Erin Flannery has a similar opinion. “Everybody should have to take them. College doesn’t exempt. Life doesn’t exempt,” Flannery said.

But agricultural science teacher Amy Rickman has a different take on exam exemptions, and it makes her more of the exception among the handful of teachers interviewed by The Ville News.

Rickman believes granting students exemptions, provided they meet the criteria, gives them an incentive during the school year.

“It rewards students for good grades and good attendance,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

Story by Abbey Lewis, Sarah Kovach and Kyra Hodge

Locker? What locker?

That’s the sentiment of many HHS students who say they never use a locker and carry everything they need in a backpack.

“I don’t have time to stop in between classes,” said freshman Aislyn Zasada. “I use it maybe once a month.”

“I haven’t used it once,” freshman Hannah Adamson added, while classmate Zoe Murphey remarked, “I don’t even know where mine is if I’m being honest.”

But teachers, parents and health experts warn that students are literally breaking their backs to save a few minutes.

“Kids come in here complaining about back pain, shoulder pain, and headache all the time. I’ll go lift of their backpack, and it feels like it’s 60 pounds. They’re stuffed full,” HHS nurse Sue Buckberry said.

It isn’t only anecdotal evidence, either; studies show that most students carry backpacks that are between 10 and 20 percent of their body weight, a load that can cause serious back pain and other disorders down the road.

In theory, students should have enough time to stop by their lockers and still get to their classes on time. HHS recently extended the period between classes from 5 minutes to 7 minutes – same as Gallatin and Beech but not as generous as Station Camp’s 12 minutes.

Still, HHS students say 7 minutes isn’t enough time, especially if they’re going from one end of the building to the other and need to drop by the bathroom.

In the end, it seems they would rather risk a back ache from a heavy backpack than a detention from a touchy teacher.

Story by Olivia Nutting and Emma Miller

It’s that time of year again. The decorations are up and the first flakes are in the forecast.

Based on two old standbys for winter weather predictions, Hendersonville should see more cold and snow than last year, which _ fingers crossed _ could mean more days off school.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for a cold, snowy winter across Tennessee with snow throughout the winter months.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service expects a return to a more normal winter for our area compared to last year’s mild turn.

What’s normal for the Nashville area? About 6 or 7 inches of snow on average – meaning some years can see much more and some much less. Sumner County, especially northern Sumner County, typically gets more frozen precipitation than Nashville.

Whatever winter has in store, the school system should have more than enough snow days to handle it with 13 stockpiled.

Story by Katlin-Marie Grant and Megan Grandas

____________________

The HHS Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Christmas for Commando Kids project is in full swing and will continue until Dec. 20.

The project anonymously provides gifts to needy HHS students and their siblings.

“The guidance office has been given 13 names of students (8 girls and 5 boys) who need assistance,” said HHS teacher Karl Wenzel, who oversees the program. “I am looking for 13 sponsors to take care of each of these kids.”

A sponsor can be a faculty or staff member, a student and his or her family, a class, a team, a club “or any other way you would like,” Wenzel said.

The school’s JROTC program is also assisting with the project.

If you’d like to participate, stop by the guidance office or see Wenzel in Room 146.

Story by Allyssa Hite and Hailey Gilley

 

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The HHS girls bowling team will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, today (Dec. 8) to compete in its biggest tournament of the season.

The girls team is 13-4 this season and ranked 15th in the state. The boys team is 7-10.

The bowling teams are coached by Anthony Butera and assistant coach Caitlin Hall.

Making the trip to Cincinnati are seniors Kerra Casteel, Megan Grandas and Jaycie Russum; juniors Nevaeh England, Alexa Janesh and Elizabeth Jones; and sophomores Katherine Ross and Sara Ross.

Story by Mason Mills and Camden McClister

For many students, it probably sounds like the ultimate Christmas gift: An early graduation from high school.

But for a handful of HHS seniors, it is reality; 18 will receive their diplomas this month instead of waiting until spring.

The county has a process for early graduation that requires students to complete all class credits, the ACT exam and the U.S. citizenship test, plus submit consent letters from their parents and the principal.

The Board of Education then must approve the request.

Students have different reasons for cutting their senior year short. Jeremy Boaz, for example, wants to “start college early and do more with jobs, like pay off college debt sooner than later.”

Cameron Gallina is also looking for a head start on life after high school, though he knows it will mean missing out on school activities.

“It just depends on who you are,” Gallina said of the decision. “I moved here freshmen year, so I don’t have as much attachment.”

When seniors graduate early, they are no longer considered part of the student body. They can attend school functions, but as guests rather than students.

That bothers Logan Whitney a little. She said she will miss seeing her friends every day, but she still plans to attend prom and the Snow Ball as a guest with her boyfriend.

And come spring, Whitney intends to walk the line with the senior class even though, technically, she will already be an HHS graduate.

Story by Sarah Kovach, Abbey Lewis and Kyra Hodge

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