Spanish Fork High adds pros and cons of trimester schedule

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    By Callie Buys

    The Spanish Fork High School Community Council presented the results of a survey conducted to gage parent, student and teacher opinion about the trimester schedule at the January Nebo School Board meeting.

    “Parents, teachers and students at Spanish Fork High School are united in their choice of keeping the trimester schedule,” said Sherrie Mitchell, a community council member.

    The survey revealed that most parents, students and teachers agree or strongly agree the trimester schedule is the best schedule for Spanish Fork High School.

    “Perhaps in any school 70 percent of the people-teachers, kids, parents-are going to favor what they”re already in,” said Spanish Fork principal Don Jones. “People resist change.”

    Spanish Fork”s trimester schedule has three terms with five 67-minute classes every day. The other two high schools in Nebo District, Springville and Payson, are on a block schedule.

    “There is a little shorter time in class, which a lot of research documents is good for the marginal student,” Jones said. “Meeting every day is good for the marginal student and having fewer preparations is good. So there is a lot of positive things that our teachers like that they think is good for kids.”

    The school board would like to see all schools on the same schedule, Jones said.

    “I think the board is definitely thinking of changing it,” Jones said. “They would like all three high schools on the same schedule.”

    The board believes in site-based management, according to Bob Wadley, director of secondary education at Nebo School District.

    “There is some desirability for having all schools in the district on the same plan,” Wadley said. “But there is also some desirability in allowing individual schools to create their own structural system.”

    The board asked the school to look into other options on an ongoing basis, but has not mandated a change, Wadley said. The school will remain on the trimester schedule at least through the 2002-03 school year, according to Jones.

    Spanish Fork”s terms end at different times than schools on a semester block schedule, creating difficulties for students attending college classes at Utah Valley State College while still in high school, Jones said.

    Students on the trimester schedule end their first term in November, so students taking classes at UVSC have over a month of lapse time before classes begin in January.

    Other problems with the trimester schedule include fewer elective options than the block schedule offers, with only 15 classes per school year instead of 16.

    “Are we really looking after the student with the trimester?” I think that we should look into giving as many opportunities as we can, and we”re actually taking away those opportunities,” said Earl Thomsen, vocational agriculture teacher at Spanish Fork High School.

    One benefit of the trimester schedule, according to Jones, is students have fewer classes to prepare for each day.

    “It helps them focus on what”s necessary, what they have to do each day,” Jones said. “They really get a chance to do some exceptional work.”

    Advanced Placement students attend class all three trimesters, giving students an edge on AP tests, according to Jones.

    “They get almost an extra half a year instruction, and you”ve got your top students getting that, so they do very well on our tests,” Jones said.

    Chemistry and physics teacher Denise Villarta said the strength of the trimester program is reflected on new teachers. For example, Villarta teaches the first half of her Chemistry curriculum both first and second trimesters, and the second half both second and third trimesters.

    “What you have is teachers, particularly new teachers, who are learning the skills of teaching twice as fast as under a regular system,” Villarta said.

    “For me this is a second career, so I would qualify as a new teacher,” she said. “I was able to take the stuff and immediately apply it and make the changes. Anything you can do to reduce the stress on a new teacher is good.”

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