ONTARIO — With only one year’s experience with the new trimester system at Ontario High School, Principal Jodi Elizondo said she will wait a few years to decide whether it fits the school’s needs, but already likes some of the things she sees.
“We’ve already seen some benefits,” Elizondo said, in a recent interview.
Up until the 2018-19 school year, the school followed the traditional semester calendar of 18 weeks, split between fall and spring. However, last August, it switched to a trimester calendar featuring a 12-week schedule in fall, winter and spring sessions. Instead of seven class periods a day, there are now six longer periods.
The new system allows for a more efficient use of resources to allow the school to do more things, Elizondo said.
“We didn’t have any more classrooms,” she said.
The new schedule provides time for more elective classes and more opportunities for students who are behind on credits to make them up, she said. Before there was no opportunity for credit recovery, Elizondo said.
While some classes follow the 12-week model, English and math classes are taught the full year, although the grades for those latter classes still come out at the same time as other classes.
Before adopting the new system, Ontario School District staff members visited schools where trimesters are already in place. These schools included North Marion High School in Aurora and Cascade High School in Turner. Staff found that the schedules opened up resources when there was no opportunity to add them.
Elizondo said the school has been able to reduce class sizes, adding more classes for existing subjects, increase P.E. and art offerings and even added some computer classes. In addition, they were able to bring back a personal finance course.
Another addition is the lunch that students are assigned to get help from a teacher if they are failing a class.
A first-year program for freshman students is Freshman Academy which is designed to provide the support those incoming students need to be successful in high school — specifically in three areas: math, science and English.
“We’re trying it, we’ll tweak it and we’ll see if it is best for kids.” Elizondo said.