Whistler Secondary to adopt semester system next year 

Whistler Secondary will switch to a semester system next year.

"The principle impetus came from our staff," said Principal Ken Davies.

"They needed to make a change."

The debate over the quarter versus a semester system has been going on for some time at the secondary school.

In a quarter system the school year is divided into four equal parts, whereas in a semester system, the most common school timetable in B.C., the year is divided into two equal parts.

This year a survey was done and it found a majority of students wanted to keep the quarter system in place.

At the time of the survey teachers and parents were also in favour of the quarter system. But recently, said Davies, parental and teacher support has been waning.

Concerns have also been raised about the stress involved in teaching certain subjects such as Math 12 in the quarter system.

Students were sometimes exposed to new concepts every day without time to absorb them properly as the whole course had to be covered in about 10 weeks.

Add to that the possibility that 20 days may be cut from the school year as the Howe Sound School district considers modifying the school calendar to help bring in a balanced budget and the school felt the change had to be made.

"The decision was based on a number of things that were happening," said Davies.

"(They included) looking at the modified calendar, and all that went with that combined with other factors in teachers’ classrooms and course delivery. The staff overwhelmingly endorsed a move toward another delivery system in light of these factors."

Patti Walhov, Whistler Secondary’s Parent Advisory Council chair wouldn’t comment on the change as the PAC had yet to be officially informed of the decision by Pique’s publishing deadline Wednesday afternoon.

Parent, PAC and School Planning Council member Chris Vernon-Jarvis greeted the news, which he hadn’t heard either, with concern.

"The quarter system has been extremely successful for my children," said Vernon-Jarvis.

"You only have to concentrate on one or two subjects at once… For an awful lots of kids keeping eight subjects going in their head at the same time is just impossible for them."

Also of concern to Vernon-Jarvis was the decision being taken despite the obvious support by students and parents for the quarter system.

There had been discussion about moving away form the quarter system if government exams for the system were scrapped, but that is not the case.

Vernon-Jarvis also had concerns about the move to cut 20 days from the school year.

There appears to be some immediate benefits according to data from other districts which have modified their calendars. But Vernon-Jarvis isn’t convinced of the long-term benefits.

"I think the (benefits) will even out over three or four years… then we will have all the disadvantages and the advantages will have evaporated," said Vernon-Jarvis.

All stakeholders received a letter and a survey this week outlining the school board’s proposal to cut 20 days from the year. The surveys are due back to the school by May 16 and the board plans to look at the issue further at its meeting May 28.

Meanwhile the ministry of education has also added Grade 10 to the graduation program.

Students will be required to successfully complete Language Arts 10, Science 10, Math 10, Social Studies 10, P.E. 10 and Planning 10 to graduate.

The change flows from a 2001 survey of students which found that only half of those questioned felt high school had prepared them for life after Grade 12, and 38 per cent were satisfied with how school prepared them for work.

"We are getting the information and now trying to decipher what kind of an impact that will have," said Davies.

"I am not sure yet on the mechanics and that is what I want to see before I make a comment on it."

Davies does believe it will help students focus on their futures. But he believes students, families, and the school must all work together for the best results.

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