Peter Skene Ogden on Sept. 10. (File photo)

PSO returns to modified semester system this fall

Classes will run on a four-block fixed semester system

Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School will be returning to a semester system next year, although it will be slightly different than before.

The move, which will replace the quarterly system that was imposed during COVID-19, will see classes run on a four-block fixed semester system, which means they will be offered at the same time every day. The previous semester system was five rotating blocks.

Principal Geoff Butcher said the goal is to develop a system that benefits all students. The new system will make it easier for students to get work experience at a fixed time, he said, while staff is looking to work with Thompson Rivers University to offer some courses for students at PSO, which a rotating schedule wouldn’t allow.

“With the Grade 8s, we’re trying to find ways to transition them better from Grade 7 to Grade 8. So we’re going to try a little bit of an elementary school model which is keeping the kids together and have the teachers come to them,” Butcher said. ‘

The decision to return to a semester system came after SD27 surveyed teachers and students to find out what worked and what didn’t with the quarterly system, which was adopted in 2020/2021 to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. The quarterly system meant the year was divided up into four chunks and while students had fewer subjects, their class times were up to three hours.

The school district received a wide wide spectrum of responses from those who liked it and those who didn’t.

“Academically, it’s been an interesting year. Quarter systems have their drawbacks and benefits,” Butcher said. “Like any system, it’s not really dependent on the structure of the timetable if kids do better or worse, it’s up to the teachers.”

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One of the main drawbacks was the length of time spent in class studying one subject, Butcher said, adding that after a certain point, students’ brains tend to get full and they don’t absorb information as well. As a result, some teachers had trouble getting through all their material.

SD27 Supt. Chris van der Mark said that due to the longer classes, missing class time could quickly put students behind.

“If you missed a couple of days, it was like missing a week. If you missed a week it was like missing a month,” van der Mark said. “If you were sick for any length of time, it could be really difficult.”

Some students, however, enjoyed the fewer classes and the simplicity of the block system, with one in the morning and one in the afternoon, Butcher said. Shop classes especially benefited as students had more time to work on their projects. The new system also allowed teachers and students to get to know each other better. This closer relationship meant students felt more comfortable approaching teachers on a variety of issues.

Despite a return to the semester system at PSO and Lake City Secondary School in Williams Lake, van der Mark said staff at both schools are considering keeping some of the positive impacts of the quarterly system, such as online learning and finding ways to keep teachers and students together longer.

“The schedule is just a schedule,” van der Mark said. “There are flexibilities that schools can find depending on what they’re offering and the needs of their students. I think, and I hope, that exploring the quarter system validated that and gave schools the permission to explore some of those options.”

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