December 12, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 450

ML school considers move to trimesters

A presentation about changing back to a trimester system was brought to the Moose Lake School Board once again at a working meeting on Monday, December 9. The proposal had previously been brought to the board last April.

High School Principal Billie Jo Steen and the Site Team were present to discuss the changes and the advantages and disadvantages with the board. No date has been set to implement the new schedule, although it was discussed about starting the schedule in the fall of the 2014-2015 school year.

Steen said that they are still working on all of the ramifications of the changes and haven’t completed all of the areas that need to be studied.

Areas that have been considered are: What is valued at the Moose Lake school, the value of school connectedness, breaking ranks research and brain research.

“That’s why we are looking at the system differently,” said Steen.

For breaking ranks, the teachers would have contact with no more than 90 students a day. That would allow teachers the time for personalized planning with students that need extra help, said Steen.

What needs to be considered is homework versus guided practice. Teachers can see how well the students understand the material that they have to learn.

In brain research, it has been found that stress in high concentrations is not a strategy that works well with kids, Steen added.

Site Team member Lee Stephenson pointed out that students from low socio-economic families do not do as well, and they don’t do their homework.

Steen reported that Moose Lake High School had been using the trimester system for 13 years until 2008-2009. The schedule was changed to a semester system when the school district was trying to cooperate with other school districts to coordinate classes.

Steen asked, “It we looked at something different, what would that be? If we did the trimester this year, what would it look like with the current staff?

“This is why we are having this conversation with the board. It will be a long time before we will come back for a decision. There is a lot of work to do yet.”

Advantages listed were: added reading for students in grades seven and eight; English could offer more student choice; math would have an added third trimester of advanced algebra and an added section of math 7; social studies would have four electives; an elective would be added for art; Woods, Water and Wildlife would have an added section and more time for hands-on activities and labs; college Spanish courses could be taken sequentially and have a full year, if desired; college courses could be spread out between the trimesters; an advisory program to prepare students for college could be implemented; study halls would be eliminated; and the new schedule would eliminate the need for a sixth-period pay for 10 teachers and create a savings of approximately $20,000.

The disadvantages listed were: possible reduction in the elementary art time; reduction in elementary music or lesson time by 20 minutes a day; no phy-ed classes for grades nine and 10 and changes in elementary phy-ed times; no study halls would create difficulties for special education students and reduce time for taking electives; no sharing of business classes with the elementary; reduce industrial tech classes by two electives; may need to purchase materials, such as books, for new elective courses; and fewer staff, which would limit elective offerings.

Steen said that the funds saved on teaching periods would be spent on new materials.

Each day for students in their senior year would be divided like a college schedule.

“The staff is supportive as a whole,” said Steen. “We would have to educate the teachers and do staff development. They would want to know what they would have to do differently with the change in the periods. We also have to sit down with the elementary staff and discuss the impact on them.”

Although the Site Team has had preliminary feedback, more feedback from the students, parents, staff and other interested parties still needs to be gathered.

Stephenson said that the plan is to make Moose Lake High School more attractive to students and bring more students into the building.

“We can address the students’ problems better,” he added. “There will be less on their plates.”

“It will be a lot of work and continue to be a lot of work but it will be better in the long run,” said Steen.

More information will be brought to the board at a later date.

The board also discussed the lockdown procedures.

Superintendent Robert Indihar said that there are numerous reasons that the school would be locked down.

Steen said that an Instant Message could be sent to all of the staff on their iPads to inform them of the reason for the lockdown. A general message would be sent out over the intercom system. However, there are areas, such as the restrooms, where there are no speakers for the intercom system.

Alerts could also be sent to the phones of the staff, she added.

Key cards will be given to the police to be placed in each patrol vehicle, and two cards will be given to the fire department and the ambulance for placement in the emergency vehicles.

Magnet strips have been ordered for teachers that want them on their classroom doors.

The regular meeting of the board is set for Monday, December 16.

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