FDSH recalculates in its switch to trimesters

Fort Dodge Senior High is now on a trimester schedule. Students are taking three semesters of classes during the school year.

A semester is defined as one Carnegie unit, or 7,200 minutes of instruction, according to Dave Keane, FDSH principal.

“One of our credits is half of a Carnegie unit, or 3,600 minutes of instruction,” Keane said. “Right now we have 58 minutes times the 60 days of the term, and that gives us roughly 3,600 minutes. We put a competency-based waiver into the state because those two minutes would have thrown us off a little bit over the course of 60 days, and because of that we’re able to offer still a semester credit for each course taken within that 60 days.”

Keane said it is similar to someone meeting 42 minutes a day over a 90-day period.

“You’re still at 3,600 minutes,” he said. “Prior to that, we were meeting roughly 88 minutes over a 45-day period.”

While some trimester schedules split a yearlong course into three terms, FDSH has three full semester terms. A yearlong course there equals two of its three semesters.

To accommodate the new schedule, the school day is now 25 minutes longer.

“Part of that was to get our periods long enough to get approval for our credits,” Keane said. “The other part is we added additional passing time during the day, because if you’ve got more periods you’ve got more times you need to move between periods. We were going to gobble up instructional time out of that if we didn’t add some time to the day.”

One benefit for its students regards its math classes. With only 45 days, there was limited opportunity for independent practice, Keane said.

“Now they have 60 days worth of opportunities for homework versus the 45 they used to have,” he said. “The math teachers felt that would be helpful.”

FDSH students have expressed positive views about the new schedule, Keane said.

“Some of the things the kids have brought up is that there’s an opportunity to take more classes,” he said. “Some new classes were developed because of that. They’ve talked about shortened periods makes the day go faster, when the longer periods sometimes dragged. They like the idea that now we have study hall. They also like that the musics each have their own period now.”

The students have also had some criticisms.

“They used to do a lot of their homework in class, which is not really what the block was designed to do, but they’re having a little bit more homework, having an additional two classes,” Keane said. “Some of them complain about the longer day.”

FDSH teachers also have mixed views of the schedule change, Keane said.

“The teachers went from 88 minutes of prep time down to 58 minutes of prep time; that was a concern for them. They went from teaching three courses a term to teaching five courses a term,” he said. “Teachers like the extra period for study hall, because it allows special ed kids to get served then. And it also allows us to put a structure in place where we can help struggling kids.”

Keane said, so far, the school year is going well.

“We’ve got a lot of kids here that I don’t know we necessarily anticipated. Our enrollment is a little higher than what we had projected,” he said. “That caused us some nice problems to have, in terms of getting things sorted around. Fortunately, the staff and the students did a great job of making sure students felt welcomed when they came into the classroom.”