File photo of Milton High School

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 12,, Milton High School students begin choosing classes for the next school year. One significant change this year is that students will be selecting courses to fit into a new schedule being adopted for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Currently Milton High School students have a traditional eight-period day, with a school year split into semesters. Starting in September, the school will move to a five-period day and organize their calendar into trimesters. Last fall, several parent meetings were held at MHS to address questions regarding the new schedule as well as informational materials sent home.

Two more informational meetings were set to take place during the spring parent-teacher conferences. These meetings are scheduled for Feb. 12 and 17, at 6 p.m. in the Jon C. Platts Performing Arts Center. MHS staff will give a brief presentation on the upcoming changes and will be available to answer any questions parents may have.

Below are some of the frequently asked about the new trimester schedule:

1. Will there be other Milton schools moving to the trimester?

No, only Milton High School will be moving to the trimester. The start and end of the school year will still be the same in all grades, 4K-12. The first day of school for all grades will be September 1, 2020, and the last day of classes, June 3, 2021.

2. Why are we making these changes?

There are a number of reasons. A large team of high school staff members worked throughout the 2018-2019 school year to review and evaluate the current schedule and investigate any alternatives. At the end of the process, in the spring 2019, the group recommended a move to the trimester. We believe this model will create longer learning periods for lab-based classes. It better positions staff to meet the social and emotional needs of our students. It also better positions teachers to create programming for their students.

3. How is the trimester system different than the semester system?

The school year will be divided into three “trimesters” instead of two “semesters.” Each trimester will be about 58 days of instruction where each semester was about 87.

4. How many periods will there be in a day? How long will the passing periods be?

We will have a five-period day. Each class will be 68 minutes long with 6-minute passing periods.

5. What will the bell schedule look like?

This is the current bell schedule for the 2020-2021 school year, but we could see some minor adjustments before September.

  • 7:30 a.m. — Warning bell
  • 7:35-8:43 a.m. — Period 1
  • 8:49-9:57 a.m. — Period 2
  • 10:03-10:49 – Study Flex
  • 10:55 a.m.-12:03 p.m. — Period 3A
  • 10:49-11:13 a.m. — Lunch 1
  • 11:19 a.m.-12:27 p.m. — Period 3B
  • 12:03-12:27 p.m. — Lunch 2
  • 12:33-1:41 p.m. — Period 4
  • 1:47-2:55 p.m. — Period 5

6. How many classes does a student take during a trimester?

Students must take five classes each trimester.

7. How do the credits work?

Each trimester course will be awarded .5 credits. As each student will take five courses per trimester, they will take 2.5 credits per grading period (7.5 per year).

8. So a full credit course now only meets 2/3 of the year?

In short, yes. For example, English 9 is a 1.0 credit class, so it will meet during two trimesters. This could be fall trimester and winter trimester or winter trimester and spring trimester. We could even have some 1.0 credit classes meet fall and spring trimester.

9. Doesn’t that shorten every class and reduce time for learning?

With each class running longer periods, 68 minutes vs. our current 48/43-minute classes, the actual difference in time of instruction over the course of each term is just a few hours. When snow days, assemblies and other anomalies are factored in, the difference is even less.

10. What is the study flex period?

During this 46-minute period – which is separate from the five 68-minute class periods, students will be able to get help from teachers in courses they need assistance or use as a study time. We will be able to deliver formal learning interventions during this time as well. The hope is that this time will be flexible and allow for students to use it as a time to get done what they need to get done outside of the regular class time.

11. What about AP classes?

One of the strengths of the MHS curriculum has always been the benefits provided to Advanced Placement courses. We will still run these courses, although they will need to run fall and winter trimesters to be completed before the May AP exams.

12. Are other high schools doing this?

Yes, high schools such as Monroe, Watertown, Sauk Prairie, Elkhorn and Homestead have all had successful transitions to the trimester in recent years. During our study, we found that many other high schools who have a traditional seven- or eight-period day are exploring other options. We also investigated block and rotating schedules.

13. Will teachers be changing how they teach with the new longer class periods?

Yes – having a longer period will require our staff to look at their instruction differently. Staff are looking at various instructional methods and practices that will continue to engage students throughout the extended period.

The extended period will be a great benefit to lab courses and physical education classes where students will have extended time for learning.

14. Will a move to the trimester schedule have a negative effect on students’ college admissions prospects?

No – the trimester is becoming more and more common and fully understood by colleges and universities. Students will still have the ability to earn much more than the minimum requirements.

Schools studied saw a positive impact on student academic performance. Schools saw a general increase in grades (GPAs), dramatic decrease in athletic ineligibility, and overall improvement of the student experience. Data from schools studied show improvement in social and emotional measures as well.

15. Is there a concern for the potential gap in instruction that will occur if a student has a first and second trimester course, and then does not have the next sequential course until the next trimester of the following year?

Studies show that “gapping” did not result in loss of retention with the students at the schools who have implemented the trimester schedule. Furthermore, comparing the GPAs of the students that had year-long courses for two trimesters in any combination (1-2, 2-3, 1-3) were statistically identical.

16. “I heard that I will only be able to take band or choir – is that true?”

No. That is not true. Students will still be able to take choir and band. The music block allows for this to happen in a single (extended) period during the day.

17. Will band and choir only be able to run 2/3 of the year?

No, the music block will allow the two bands and up to four choirs to meet during the full year.

18. Can you please explain this: “Music Block”?

The music block takes 20 minutes from the Study Flex period and adds it to the third period. We will run two 45-minute “sets” within that period. For each “set” we will run 1 band and 2 choirs. Students could then take band and one choir OR two choirs. Which choirs run during which set have not yet been determined. Students who choose to take only a single music course will have study time in the opposite “set.”

The music staff have been given a great deal of latitude on how to use this time and can flex the time periods during different times of the year (for example, during marching season or show choir season). When our new music wing is completed in the high school renovation, this schedule will give the maximum amount of ability to utilize the new space.

Music Block (Flex + Period 3A)

  • 10:03-10:29 a.m. — Study Flex
  • 10:32-11:17 a.m. — Period 3A (1st Set)
  • 11:18 a.m.-12:03 p.m. — Period 3A (2nd Set)
  • 12:05-12:27 p.m. — 2nd Lunch

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