Whistler Secondary adopts semester system 

Sports School launched to help athletes excel at secondary school

Whistler Secondary will switch to a semester system for the 2003/2004 school year.

The decision was made by the school board at its meeting last week after a lengthy consultation at the school level and years of debate on the issue in the community.

Parent Nancy Wilhem-Morden, who has long advocated for the adoption of the semester system over the quarter system, was thrilled with the decision.

"I am really quite pleased that the semester system is coming in," she said.

"I can see that the quarter system was well suited to the so-called elite athletes but for the general population it is probably a better move to get away from the quarter system."

Wilhelm-Morden and many other parents have several concerns with the quarter system. They include the intensity for students in trying to learn subjects such as math or science in nine-and-a-half weeks.

"If students have to miss a day of school for illness or a dental appointment or something like that they miss a lot of work and then it is difficult to try and catch up before the next onslaught the following day," said Wilhelm-Morden.

And if students are struggling but parents don’t find out for a few weeks it is almost impossible to catch up and do well in the course.

There are also issues around where courses are offered in the school year.

Wilhelm-Morden’s daughter did not have Grade 9 math until last April.

"We were forced to hire a tutor in September to start teaching her math so she would remember something from Grade 8 by the time she got her grade 9 math," she said.

It is also questionable whether the quarter system prepares students for post secondary education where, in most cases, they must take at least five courses per semester.

"If you don’t know how to juggle more than two courses per quarter then you are going to be behind the game," said Wilhelm-Morden.

Whistler Secondary Principal Ken Davies started hearing concerns about the semester system as soon as he arrived at the school in 2001.

Wilhelm-Morden said he was immediately open to parents’ concerns and suggestions for change and began to look into options.

"I am really appreciate of the effort that Ken Davies put into this because as soon as he became the principal at our school he was very open to suggestions of change and he did a lengthy consultative process," said Wilhelm-Morden.

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