EPS discuss switch to semesters

EVART — After working under a trimester schedule for four years, Evart Public Schools is considering switching back to semesters to accommodate staff reductions and put greater emphasis on core curriculum.

Evart Public Schools switched from semesters to trimesters in 2007 along with all districts in the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District. The switch unified schedules of the MOISD schools who sent students to the Mecosta-Osceola Career Center and Math, Science, Technology Center, as well as offered students opportunities to take more classes in a school day.

“The switch allowed us to offer a lot of electives,” said Alan Kullman, high school principal. “Unfortunately with the hard financial times, our elective offerings are now scant.”

Since the school has been on a trimester schedule, the shop and building trades programs have been cut. The high school also has lost five teachers due to cuts or moving to another building.

Under the trimester schedule, students spent 70 minutes in five periods each day for 12 weeks. If the school makes the change to a semester schedule, students will attend six 60-minute class periods for 18 weeks. Core curriculum classes that were offered for two trimesters will now be offered in two semesters, creating an increase of 480 minutes of instruction each year.

“If teachers have more minutes of instruction to teach the same material, they should be able to delve into better teaching practices,” Kullman said.

Better teaching practices could include more hands-on learning or extended lessons, he said.

The semester schedule also would present a more clear method of data analysis for teachers, who use data from student tests to change or alter their instruction style. Under the semester schedule, teachers would be evaluating the same group of students for the whole year instead of different sets of students at the beginning and ends.

Kullman said the change would also benefit dual-enrollment students who are already enrolled in higher education courses on a semester schedule, and put a lighter workload for the counseling office staff with classes being scheduled twice instead of three times.

One of the biggest disadvantages to the trimester schedule, Kullman sad, was when students took the first session of a course in the first trimester and enrolled in the second session during the third trimester. The gap in learning caused a loss of knowledge and a decrease in student performance, he said.

“We’re always looking to try to find ways to increase MEAP scores, and we think this might help,” said superintendent Howard Hyde.

Kullman said if the school makes the switch, graduation requirements would be changed similarly to how they were adjusted when the district switched to a trimester schedule. Students currently need 27 credits to graduate and the requirements would most likely decrease by one credit each year and remain at 24.

Morley Stanwood and Crossroads recently made the decision to work under a semester schedule for the 2012-13 school year and Reed City is already on a semester schedule.

The Evart school board will continue to discuss the issue and make a decision before the end of this school year.

In other business, the board:

  • discussed possible purchases with funds gained from the regional enhancement millage if it passes on May 8, such as new busses, carpet replacement, additional security cameras, resealing the high school and middle school parking lots and repairing a leak in the high school gymnasium;
  • discussed the need to recruit girls for the varsity softball program after only ten players attended the first practice;
  • discussed charging admission for track, softball and baseball home games and are looking for a group who would be paid $350 to take tickets at the events for the season. Those interested can call the superintendent’s office at (231) 734-2931.