SEMESTERS: ONE YEAR LATER

India Kirssin | Staff Writer

The Transition

It’s year two.

When Mason High School switched to semesters last year, it was a huge transition for a district that had uniquely operated under trimesters for 16 years. A five-bell day of 72-minute classes became a seven-bell, 50-minute class day. A yearly schedule of 15 blocks consisted of 14 blocks and traditional two-trimester classes stretched to last a full year.

The transition year began during the 2014-2015 school year, creating difficulties for students who weren’t used to having so many classes.

Senior Katarina Schneiderman said the transition wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be, but the increased number of classes proved to be a challenge.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but it was still challenging,” Schneiderman said. “I thought that going into semesters there would be more classes, more homework and the same amount of difficulty, which was accurate.”

Senior Emma Hodge also mentioned the additional pressure of seven classes. Losing time in the tough classes she took as junior was why the transition was hard for her, she said.

“The adjustment was really difficult; it was hard because when it came time to schedule for my junior year, I was losing hours in the AP Chemistry labs and a bunch of different classes,” Hodge said. “We couldn’t get things done so that made it difficult and added a lot of homework to the load, especially having the seven classes.”

AP Chemistry teacher Amiee Hansen said the scheduling for AP Chemistry and AP Biology labs was a concern for the transition year, but has been running smoothly.

“For AP Bio and AP Chem, we introduced a zipper schedule and I think it worked really fabulously,” Hansen said. “The kids had chemistry every day but then every other day they would stay long for lab or come early. The (day they aren’t in lab) they are in the learning commons.”

Hansen said that the transition was mainly about efficiency.

“I think the kids really benefited from taking this tough AP course by having a built in study hall,” Hansen said. “Last year the transition was trying to figure out how to use the learning commons so the kids were efficient.”

Junior Scott Vennemeyer said the transition year hasn’t just been about students getting comfortable with semesters, but teachers as well.

“I think it was a transitioning period last year for the teachers, too,” Vennemeyer said. “This year we saw what did not work and what did work last year, and I think they’re going to get into the swing of it.”

New Opinions on Semesters

Going into the second year of the semester schedule, some have upheld their opinions on semesters, while others have changed their views. Perry said her favorite part about semesters is the relationships that have time to develop.

“The consistency (is the best part),” Perry said. “The ability to have the same kid and see them through the year, where with trimesters you felt like it was difficult to reach them. This time you get to know their personality traits and what’s going on, which means you help them better.”

Hodge said after making it through the transition, she has learned what she can handle and overall likes semesters better.

“The seven bells is long but it’s bearable to get through,” Hodge said. “I learned not to pile up too many APs because you’re never going to give yourself a break during the day.”

Vennemeyer said that while he liked trimesters, he sees the benefits of both sides.

“I think there’s good things about both; I’m OK with semesters and it was never, ‘Oh no, I hate that’ but there are things I really liked about trimesters,” Vennemeyer said.

Hansen said while the new schedule has posed challenges, getting to know the students better is a positive.

“Overall I feel lucky because I’m getting to be with the students a lot more,” Hansen said.

Lingering Thoughts on Trimesters

After a year without trimesters, many students and staff still have varying opinions of the old schedule. Some loved splitting the year into three parts, while others found it hard to keep consistency with so many breaks.

Spanish teacher Debbie Perry has taught at Mason for 11 years and said she wasn’t a fan of trimesters, due to the constant switching and swapping of class levels and students.

“Truthfully, it’s the only (schedule) I’ve ever taught in because I’ve only been a teacher for 11 years,” Perry said. “This is my second career, so I knew nothing else. My daughter went to school here so really, that’s all I knew and I disliked them completely. Starting and stopping with a different group of children was a nightmare because you would get a handful of kids who were used to your teaching style and then the other kids would be lost.”

Senior Emma Hodge has a differing opinion, citing more ability to focus as a reason she enjoyed trimesters.

“For trimesters I liked the longer classes,” Hodge said. “I felt like I was actually able to get into what I was doing and finish something by the end of the bell, so that was my favorite part. And we only had five classes a day. I think seven is a lot; it makes the day seem a lot longer.”

Extracurricular Issues

With Mason students involved in sports and clubs that require time outside of school, the new schedule has created a time management problem many weren’t expecting.

Perry taught an AP class last year and said she couldn’t believe the amount of pressure her students were under.

“The thing I saw with the older kids is they took too many hard classes, so they overloaded themselves and they were falling apart,” Perry said. “I had one AP class last year and I was amazed that some of them had six (other) AP classes.”

Schneiderman, a varsity soccer player, said managing her classes, her clubs and a sport make it difficult to have time to get anything done.

“Especially with soccer they are really supportive with you doing stuff for school work and all, but you can’t stay after school for help every day and come late to practice,” Schneiderman said. “So that’s also really challenging because you might be taking courses and doing OK but you want to get help and you can’t because you have other commitments too. It’s trying to find that balance that is really challenging.”

The Future

With the transition to semesters complete, Mason students and staff have a few different ideas of how to act moving forward. Perry said a rotating schedule would be nice to be able to get students at different times of the day.

“The only thing I don’t like about semesters is that my first bell class is always my first bell class, so I see them sleepy, and when they come back at a different time of the day, I’m like, ‘Who is this child who has energy?’’’ Perry said. “If we moved it around I think the kids would not get in that rut.”

When asked about scheduling changes in the future, Assistant Principal William Rice said the semester schedule is set for now.

“There hasn’t been any conversation about that and I think that points to a transition period with leadership right now,” Rice said. “I think our philosophy is always to see what’s best, I just don’t see anything big being changed going into next school year.”

As sources have said, one year into semesers students and staff have adjusted and accepted the two-part year as their new schedule.

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