Board approves trimesters for Homestead

School Board votes for 2012-'13 change despite petition for delay

July 18, 2011

Mequon - Despite a petition of 500 signatures asking for a delay, the Mequon-Thiensville School Board voted unanimously Monday to move ahead with a switch to a trimester schedule at Homestead High School.

The proposed change would switch the district's only high school from a schedule where teachers are in the classroom six out of seven classes per day to a schedule where they teach four out of five possible classes.

Mequon-Thiensville is addressing an issue that could become more common in public schools, as school boards looking to save money in any way they can consider squeezing more class hours into teachers' workdays at the expense of prep time.

The change will go into effect for the 2012-'13 school year.

A study team began studying schedule alternatives in September as a result of negotiations with the teachers union over the 2009-'11 contract, Superintendent Demond Means said. The current schedule was put in place to save money, but there was no analysis on possible effects on education.

The study team found only a handful of school districts in Wisconsin use a trimester scheduling system in high school. Although all members of the study team created to explore schedule options supported the proposal and 90% of voting faculty were in favor of it, the proposal has created controversy.

Advocates of the change say it would fix a schedule that leaves teachers in front of a classroom for 86% of their day, which they say doesn't leave them enough time for course planning or one-on-one time with students. They now only have 50 minutes per day scheduled for these activities. They also say it would provide students with more interactive classes.

Opponents worry about learning gaps that could occur between trimesters and wonder why a drastic change is needed if Homestead is a top-performing school.

In a letter to the community, Means wrote "the conclusion that the status quo is fine and therefore we should not change is contrary to the message of continuous improvement our parents are seeking from the school district. Instead of being complacent, the administration is seeking to further enhance an already good academic product."

In late June, a petition signed by 500 people was submitted to the School Board asking that Monday's vote be postponed until Oct. 25 and that the board provide more evidence on trimesters' effectiveness while increasing communication within the school district.

"The complexity that comes with developing public policy is that it is nearly impossible to achieve 100% acceptance for any proposal. The fact of the matter is that policy should be developed based on research, organizational objectives and what is best for the future of the organization," Means wrote.

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