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District tables vote on schedule change

The South Kitsap School Board delayed voting on whether or not to approve a recommendation to adjust the high school’s trimester schedule until next Tuesday’s meeting after at least one board member expressed concern over two words in the proposal.

“I’m not really comfortable with all the language in this recommendation,” said board member Keith Garton. He explained he was worried that the compromise, which kept the main school calendar on trimesters but “locked in” students to their core classes of math, English and science for an entire school year, could create unintended consequences in the future.

“The wording is very definitive,” Garton said. “I want to make sure there is a mechanism in place in case (students need to change classes because of conflicts that may arise with their teacher, their schedule or other problems that necessitate a class change).”

Board member Jim Huff agreed, saying that he was concerned that several years from now future board members may read the words “locked in” and feel their hands were tied as far as moving students to another class.

According to high school administrators, staff members have expressed renewed interest recently in moving classes to a semester schedule — two terms a year — rather than the current trimesters, which are three terms per year.

Expressing concern over meeting the impending graduation requirement that requires each student to obtain a Certificate of Mastery — pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) — prior to graduation starting with the class of 2008, teachers hoped that semesters would provide more time with their students to build relationships and ensure thorough understanding of required material.

However, after conducting lengthy discussions and holding a community forum to collect input, the school surveyed both students and staff and did not find overwhelming support for changing the school schedule.

Only parents and staff supported the change to semesters, with only six more votes from the parents and eight more from the staff approving the change, while a clear majority of the students favored remaining on the semester schedule.

A compromise — which board member Chris Lemke described as ‘alternative three’ — was then created that would allow students to experience the variety of electives a trimester schedule affords, while also offering the stability and increased learning potential that year-long core classes provide.

If the recommendation is approved, Superintendent Bev Cheney said, the school would focus on imbedding the current sophomores into year-long core classes, beginning with the 2004-2005 school year.

Since many junior and senior students may have already passed the WASL exam, their academic needs may differ, she said.

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