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Published: 1/20/2009

Springfield High School switches to trimesters in fall

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For a high school with a traditional eight-period class schedule, switching to a trimester system would be a radical change.

Not so for Springfield High School, which has operated on a block schedule since 1997. In each of the two semesters, students take four, 90-minute classes a day.

Now school administrators say they have found a way to take the benefits of block scheduling and build on them. Beginning next fall, students will have five 72-minute classes a day that they ll take for one, two, or three trimesters depending on the course.

Last month, the school board put its stamp of approval on the plan to convert from semesters to trimesters.

It s got the features of the longer class time, which is something we really liked about block scheduling, but it adds that fifth period, which really helps with electives, said long-time board member Ken Musch.

After 11 years with block scheduling, the staff and the administration at Springfield had taken note of its shortcomings, foremost of which was the limited choice of courses students had, said Superintendent Kathryn Hott.

When students were locked into a year-long class like band, music, or advanced placement courses, the number of available class slots was immediately reduced by two.

That was always in conflict with the concept of eight classes a year, said Steve Gwin, high school principal. The one thing we like about trimesters is it s five periods per day.

Next year, students will take most core classes math, science, social studies, and English for two trimesters, freeing up the third trimester for electives like foreign language and art. Band and music will remain year-long classes, but will be only 72 minutes a day rather than 90.

Mrs. Hott said she wants to see the school develop more core electives courses that build on subjects like science.

We have some extremely dedicated and talented teachers who want to teach core electives like astronomy, astrology, an in-depth study of World War II, she said, adding that other options like an ACT preparatory class also are being considered.

While changes like that won t happen in the school s first year on trimesters, Mr. Gwin said Springfield is re-working its freshman science program for next fall. Ninth-graders will have science for all three trimesters, and the course will be broken down into a trimester each of physical science, earth science, and chemistry.

Springfield is putting extra emphasis on science, he said, because of state requirements and because the district s test scores have shown it s needed. Last year, sophomores taking the Ohio Graduation Test met 11 of the 12 academic standards all but science.

Mrs. Hott said she s convinced a trimester system will take the best features of block scheduling maximizing instruction time and minimizing movement between classrooms and improve on them to the benefit of students.

There s no question our high school test scores have improved since we went to the 90-minute block, she said. We want to keep improving.

While Springfield is sold on the idea, trimesters haven t caught on in great numbers in northwest Ohio.

Maumee High School has been on a trimester schedule since 2004, and, in Michigan, Bedford High School and most of the other Monroe County schools either have gone to trimesters or are planning to do so.

Springfield has been working with Mark Westerburg of Kalamazoo, Mich. for the past year to train staff and develop its program. Other than his consulting fee, there has been little cost associated with the change, Mrs. Hott said.

The conversion to trimesters will not require additional staff, she said, although the district will need to purchase some additional textbooks because more students will be taking the same core courses at the same time.

The cost has been minimal and we think the results will be a hundredfold, Mrs. Hott said.

Dylan Moore, a junior who serves as president of the student government, said some people resist change of any kind, but most of the kids he s talked to are excited to get more class options.

He said he takes band, which is for the entire year, and some honors classes, so he is left with no time to schedule electives or fun classes. That will change in time for his senior year.

This will work out great for me, Dylan said. It might sound like a minor change, but this is something that s going to be great.



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