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-- Anonymous, April 21, 1999


"Three Semesters fro Learning" by Mark Keen. The School Administrator, March 1999, pages 27-29.

This article focuses on a trimester schedule that was implemented in an Indiana high school. The article details some of the advantages of such a schedule as compared to the conventional semester or quarter schedules most commonly used in schools around the country. Since this form of schedualing is not widely used, some road blocks to its implementation where also outlined in the article.

What I found most interesting about the article was that it exclaimed some of the trimester virtues that I had found to be evident at a school I taught at last year in California. So many schools have created schedules that offer students a lot of choices but not much in class time or electives. It is a common misconception, from my perspective, that school districts do not completely realize the positive potential of longer classes (i.e. 70 minutes) and fewer class periods in one day while on a trimester system.

On a trimester system that has five classes a day that are 70 minutes in length each, the student is able to complete a year long course in two trimesters. For example, English, if the student who would typically take English all year long takes only two trimesters of English but completes a full year of course work the third trimester has then become available for an elective or other required course work.

If one does the math coverting their school's schedule and graduation requirements to a trimester plan as outlined above, one will find that there are more electives open for students and in a four year period the student could concievable graduate early or take dual courses at a local university, travel, work or take advanced courses in an area of interest. The need to create electives presents itself with this system, even more so than the typical 7 to 9 period, 45 minutes a class day.

The trimester system allows for a more natural transistion in education towards the ever changing demands of technology and the workforce. We need to begin to rethink how our schedules are structured in high schools so that students may function within them in a manner that truly reflects their educational needs. More time for vocational and individual student exploration is required from public schools. However, we do not want to sacrifice the "basics" for on-the job training. A balance needs to be struck that can address the changing face of education and I think that the Trimester schedule coupled with longer class periods is a good place to begin.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 1999

"New Use for Aging Schools" School Planning and Management, February 1999, page 22.

This short article talks about an elementary school that was closed and then sold to the county for a dollar. Many school districts are faced with the unpleasant and often unpopular task of closing a school that has been with a community for many years. Along with the school often comes memories of times gone past and some taxpayers are never keen on such a closing. There is, however, a solution: to redevelop the school for some kind of use within the community.

A school may outlive its educational and economic usefulness for a school district. With the limited budgets of public education, and the changing demands and regulations governing how we educate kids it is sometimes necessary to close a school. This should not be viewed as a loss by the community but rather an opportunity. Perhaps it can become low income housing, a post office, community center, etc. One of the keys to closing a school is to always look for new uses of the old building.

All it takes is some cooperative effort and an old school becomes a new community assest and the new school that has replaced it begins a fresh educational legacy.

-- Anonymous, May 12, 1999

"School Construction in U.S. Tops $15 Billion" by Bess Keller from Education Week Volume XVIII, Number 23, February 17, 1999.

This article points out something that the company I work for has been trying to capitalize on for the past four years. Currently around the country school districts are faced with growing facility needs for a myriad of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the great number of schools that were built 40+ years ago. With daily wear and tear from thousands of students it is no wonder that 40-60 years is about the life span of a public school building.

Another reason is changes in student population. It seems fair to say that out state regions experience a loss of students and metro areas experience an influx of students. This is especially true in many farming communities around the state of Minnesota. The outstate schools are forced to consolidate and eventually close all buildings and create a K-12 faclity. This means building new facilities or adding on to old faclities. Often enough outstate schools are left with poor faclities because of such declining enrollment trends coupled with a community's desire to keep what once was alive for future generations. As for other districts that experience a growing student population the problem is how to expand the space and resources to meet the needs of more students. Many old facilities simply cannot handle all those new students comfortably or efficently.

A third reason for growth in school construction is the changing face of education. Students are expected to possess skills that their parents were not. One example is the change in the concept of a library. Libraries are no longer just places for the written word to hang out, they have become the house for technology and internet exploration and research (among other things). In times like these it is obvious that a school built 40 years ago may have some shortcomings when it comes to educating today's students for tomorrow's job market.

This trend in building is encouraging and exciting. Not just for construction companies but for the school districts and students as well. New facilities mean newer ideas and a great first step towards meeting the future.

-- Anonymous, May 26, 1999

Erik, good summary of article regarding Three Semesters to Learn. You have presented good information regarding your preference to learning. However, my perspective is that a poor administration will equally mess up three semester learning as they can two semester learning. It goes back to your sound thinking of how to focus on what and how to focus on what and how students can learn, during what periods of concentration and under what circumstances, etc. Three semesters might even include Siestas!

#2: Erik, good ideas about new uses for aging school buildings. Unfortunately, it comes down to money and control. The recent dilemma with Duluth Public Schools and the Edison Project and the need to get money back and to control an emerging, successful, competitive school. I am also not sure how much school boards see themselves as part of the community, but rather as an island that the community is supposed to support. Should our school system become more of a business and thus its property would be viewed as marketable within other community contexts? Should financial support of schools be taken off the property tax records and be supported by other community adventures? I believe if you could continue to expand your thinking beyond the scope of dealing with aging school buildings you can (and do) realize there are more ways to deal with school property, etc. Keep up the good thinking, Erik!

-- Anonymous, June 24, 1999

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