The Oak Harbor School Board voted Tuesday night to transition Oak Harbor High School from a six-period semester schedule to a five-period trimester, starting in the fall of 2019.
The decision was made in response to state legislation that requires 24 credits for high school graduation with additional credits required for science, art and world languages. Currently there are 24 credits available to Oak Harbor high school students over four years.
“If they fail anything, there’s no room to recover,” said Dwight Lundstrom, principal of the high school.
The increased requirements have also limited students’ ability to take as many elective courses, said Lundstrom. Many classes in the career-technical education program are under enrolled for this reason, he said. Transitioning to a 12-week, five-period trimester would increase the number of available credits throughout the students’ four years to 30, allowing for more electives and chances to re-take failed courses.
“This is a school-driven decision,” said Lundstrom.
The proposal brought to the board had support from 89 percent of the teachers and Lundstrom said it focused on student needs.
Shelly Carman, parent of a current freshman, said she was concerned the scheduling would still not allow her son to take all the classes he wants, which include JROTC, four years of Spanish and as many advanced place classes as possible.
She said she was concerned the move to trimesters would “help the people who struggle at the expense of the people who are in the more advanced programs.”
Lundstrom expressed regret that Carman’s son and the other current freshmen didn’t have the opportunity to plan for the change when scheduling their first year of classes.
“There’s always going to be a transition group, unfortunately,” he said.
With any schedule there will be conflicts with time and classes filling up, so there will never be a guarantee students can take every class they want, he said.
“There’s no perfect scenario,” Lundstrom said.
The board also plans to gradually increase the total credit requirement to 28, meaning that 93 percent of available credits would need to be completed to graduate. This increased requirement wouldn’t fully be implemented until the graduating class of 2023 entered high school.
The requirement can’t change for students currently enrolled at the high school, so the class of 2021 will have 27 available credits and still only need 24 to graduate, according to the proposal. The increased requirement was proposed as a way to deter students from leaving early or disengaging after obtaining the minimum credits needed to graduate.
The time spent in class will also change after moving to 12-week trimesters. Students spend around 4,700 minutes in class during the 18-week semester, and this would change to around 3,700 during a 12-week trimester.
“We’ll really be concentrating on what we call power standards, so just the most important standards that are set forth by the state,” said Lundstrom. “But, the idea is that we can provide students with more opportunity because we’ll switch their classes more often in the school year.”
He said this schedule has been adopted in Kelso, Wash., and is being considered at a number of school districts across the state. He also sees moving to 12-week windows of instruction as a potential benefit.
“Kids’ sense of time is different than an adult’s sense of time, and 18 weeks seems like forever and can feel that way,” he said. “I think 12 weeks will be more manageable for them to sustain strong efforts with their teachers.”