By Ralph Trenary
The reaction of some of my friends and neighbors to the start of the new school year has been surprising. Then, I have to remember that my own high school experience was more than a little out-of-the-ordinary.
When I started junior high in the fall of 1974, my high school area was bursting at the seams, with near-certainty of continued increases in the number of students, and dismal prospects to get school bonds passed for expansion or construction. Even the elementary school I had attended for sixth grade had four pairs of modular “temp classrooms” that swallowed-up two softball fields. Well actually, we probably would have used them for kickball.
The solution was the imposition of a three-track, year-round school calendar built on six quarters. Quite simply I faced an on-for-two quarters, off-for-one model for my next six years of school. Hardly an equal to the shift of a couple of days that will occur this year, but complaints and controversy are still filling the air and appearing in print.
Considering the initial predications for my seventh- to 12th-grade experience, the end result couldn’t have been more surprising. During what was supposed to be my “off” winter quarter in eighth grade, I wasn’t. The pattern continued until I graduated. Now I realize that I took total advantage of that year-round system and completed almost eight years of education in about five years. At graduation check-out I was informed by my high school counselor that he was weary of posting my courses and grades in that old manual card-file system.
After that experience, I start from the perspective that the modest changes to the Thompson School District R2-J calendar are no big deal. Add to this my insider status with the high school Accountability Advisory Committee (SAAC), and I am confident and supportive of the new calendar. I just can’t understand why it took so long. I’ll save that question for the next time I see my favorite board of education director and band-mom.
In the first year I started attending SAAC meetings I was convinced ending the semester and taking finals after the Christmas-New Year’s break was a poor plan. Then I soon learned this was the direct cause of the CSAP Tests (Colorado Student Assessment Program) being imposed after the kids returned from spring break. Arguably this was a sequence more attuned to producing unsatisfactory results than proactively laying the groundwork for demonstrated proficiency and the coveted “advanced” product label.
So, there’s not much of a chance I can sympathize with the moaning of adults who think Aug. 18 is too early to start school. The benefits will arrive when the kids are celebrating Christmas without the pressure or pretence of finals after New Year’s Day, and the reports from the next round of CSAPs returns to the desired upward production trend line. In the mean time, I’m anxiously awaiting the principal’s analysis and explanation of the new Colorado Growth Model report. Perhaps, I’ll finally see something that looks at students as people.