School starts in one month, and the incoming students of Fort Dodge Senior High are in for a big change as the senior high prepares to go to a trimester schedule.
"We're pretty excited," Dave Keane, principal, said. "The schedule that we're going to is a six-period trimester, but it's more of a three-semester schedule rather than a true trimester, where the year's broken into thirds. It's really three half-years that are put in place. We're on four half-years now."
This year the terms will be longer, going from 45 to 60 days, something that will afford students more opportunities for independent practice, particularly in subjects such as math and science "where there are some homework problems," Keane said.
"The 45 days is just a little too fast for some of our students, particularly in the area of math," he said.
The new trimester schedule also provides students with tiered study hall periods.
"The students will start in a structured setting, but if they don't have any disciplinary or attendance issues and they're turning their work in on time, they'll be able to go to our new student center, which will be an unstructured setting where they can socialize a little bit if they like," Keane said. "There will be some little group areas where they can get together and study together."
According to Keane, an advantage of the new schedule is more flexible time during the day for students to focus on specific study areas.
"Before everything got the same amount of time," he said. "We'll have staff available to provide them support. Each of the periods, there will be some staff available and their teaching assignment will be to provide support for students that are having problems with a specific subject area."
Special needs students will also benefit.
"Our special ed teachers are pretty excited, because they're actually going to offer strategies classes," Keane said. "Before they had to pull kids out of their class they were already in, because there were no study halls."
The effort to change schedule began four years ago, during Keane's first year as principal, by initiating a schedule study.
"We weren't quite ready to make a change last year so we kind of delayed it one year beyond what the original plan was in terms of the study," Keane said. "But I think taking our time and making sure that we made a good, educated decision, I think that was the right thing to do."
Keane, while excited about the transition, said the trimester schedule wasn't his preferred choice.
"I wanted to go to the flex-mod schedule where there's even more unstructured time, but we got some feedback where people were concerned about how kids would manage that time," he said. "I think there was a lot of validity to the concerns that people brought up. It would have been a real change to go to the flex-mod schedule. It would have been a whole different change in how we look at school."
He added, "I think we're moving in that direction by going to this schedule, although I think this schedule affords some structure that kids still need."
There is also apprehension among some of the school's staff, Keane said.
"There's still teachers that are not in favor of changing from the block to this new schedule structure," he said. "I know everybody's not onboard. But for the most part, I think people are excited."