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School Board Oks Trimester Schedule For Columbia High

Columbia High School will operate on a five-period trimester schedule beginning the 2014-2015 school year.

The White Salmon Valley School District Board of Directors unanimously approved the schedule change at their meeting on Jan. 23. Board Member Eric Shank was not at Thursday’s meeting.

CHS has been on a seven-period, two-semester schedule for several years, but when CHS Principal Troy Whittle got the job he was asked by staff and his hiring committee to examine options so a schedule change could be made.

After spending three years researching schedule formats, visiting schools, and talking to other administrators, Whittle landed on a trimester schedule, which entails three, 12-week semesters consisting of five, 72-minute classes for a total of 15 classes per year. The current format consists of two, 12-week semesters, seven-period days, and 50-minute classes.

Longer periods are especially appealing to teachers who are in the process of implementing the Common Core State Standards into their daily routines, which requires students to understand topics more deeply than ever before.

Whittle has cited research that also points to reduced disciplinary problems under a trimester schedule and tends to allow teachers more time to actually teach between the start and end of class.

At Thursday’s meeting, Whittle presented options that outlined the fiscal impact of sticking with a seven-period day or switching to a five-period day with three options pertaining to Advanced Placement classes.

With a trimester schedule students who want to take AP classes will take the full class the first two semesters, but what to do between the end of the second semester around the end of March and the AP test in early May has been a puzzler. The option the board chose allows students to take the first two semesters of any AP class and then take an optional AP-test preparation class during the third semester.

“My concern is that the kids who want to do AP are given the full chance to do so,” said Board Member David Karlson.

No matter which option the board chose, increasing costs at the high school were inevitable. Staying at the seven-period day would have cost the district $42,500, which would cover a part-time drama position and a full-time agriculture teacher, according to Whittle. By the 2016-2017 school year that amount would increase by another estimated $75,000 to $117,500 for another full-time teacher to address the school’s projected increasing enrollment.

Changing to the five-period day comes with its own costs. Option A would have come to $81,500 in its first year and included the drama and agriculture teachers along with a $1,500 stipend for a senior project coordinator.

Option B would have come with everything Option A offered except $9,000 would have been included for the school’s three AP teachers as a stipend for offering extra AP study classes after school or on weekends, coming to a total cost of $90,500 in its first year.

The final option, which the board ultimately approved, essentially creates year-round AP classes. The drama and agriculture teachers are covered, a $1,500 stipend is included for a senior project coordinator, and a part-time teacher will be brought in, coming to $119,000 in its first year.

Under the model the board chose, students who take both semesters of the AP class and the test-preparation class will earn one-and-one-half credits, according to Whittle.

“During the third semester that would be offered there would be some new stuff but they’re getting the bulk of that in the first two trimesters and then they’re going back and getting ready for the test and getting challenged with some new literature,” Whittle said.

There have been some concerns raised over changing the high school’s schedule at previous meetings. Some parents who have already had children graduate from CHS worry that changing the schedule once will lead to more changes down the road.

“I had graduates in 2005, 2006, and 2007 and it was during 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 is when the high school went through multiple schedule changes. I believe my son that graduated in 2007 had four different schedules during his four years at Columbia High School and it was awful. It did not help him out at all,” said Shelly Rawding, a parent at Thursday’s meeting. “None of the students as I remember and no one in my house enjoyed the trimester system at all. The parents thought it was terrible. Nobody I talked to thought it was a good idea and after one year they switched it to something else, so I’m really against it.”

Whittle has stated in the past that most of his staff support the idea and the students were in opposition to it until it was emphasized that no credit opportunities would be lost under a trimester schedule. John Hallead, a physical education teacher at CHS and head football coach, said at Thursday’s meeting that he’ll take all the class time he can get and that a trimester schedule is the way to go in his opinion.

“I really believe that at Columbia High School with our leadership and our staff, we have the right people in place to make this transition as quality of a product as possible. I know for a fact that I am 100 percent on board with a five period day,” Hallead said. “The depth, the quality of instruction that I can give my students is easing the transition. I don’t have the time in the day to give kids what they deserve and that’s a quality education. By the time my class starts I have roughly 29 minutes of class time to transition up the stairs and down the stairs and change clothes and then teach an active, healthy lifestyle.”

Before the board made the decision to switch to the five-period day, Superintendent Dr. Jerry Lewis stated that while he could support either Option B or C, easing into the change felt better from a fiscal point of view.

And of course, the change from a seven-period to a five-period day hinges on the passage of the upcoming levy, the ballots for which were mailed last week.

“The conservative side of me would lean towards B growing into C, just because there are more things going on right now that we’re working through that are going to come to the board possibly,” Lewis said.

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