St. Thomas More moving to trimester format next school year

St. Thomas More moving to trimester format next school year

CHAMPAIGN — Come next school year, St. Thomas More will move to a trimester class schedule, officials at the Catholic high school told parents and students this week.

Principal Jason Schreder said the change is taking place to better incorporate "family time," a pillar of STM's education, on a daily basis. But the new schedule will also allow the school to offer more in-depth classes and more electives.

"With the family system, STM lives out the mission of the Catholic Church in creating and building community life among our students, staff and teachers," Schreder said, adding it will also build leadership skills "in a very real and intentional way."

"The family system offers multiple opportunities each year for students to hold leadership positions and with mentoring from the family director, family deans and house mentors, the ability to grow in their leadership skills."

At the school, students are assigned to one of four houses. Last year, each house met once a week to engage in faith- and community-building activities.

"This year, the idea is to get them to meet in their houses every day," Schreder said.

But, he added, officials realized that students would lose precious academic time if they stayed with the current format. So they began researching different options, including block scheduling, before deciding to go with the trimester schedule, which is successfully being done at Peoria Notre Dame High School and a high school in Indiana.

So what will the change look like?

Currently, the academic year is divided into a fall semester that runs from August through December and a spring semester that runs from January to the end of May, Schreder said.

"We have a traditional eight-hour day, and most students take seven classes with a study hall," Schreder said, adding classes last about 45 minutes.

Under the trimester schedule, a fall semester will roughly run from August to November, a winter semester will run from November to February, and a spring semester will run from February to the end of May or early June.

"We don't know what it will look like exactly," Schreder said, adding he's just starting to map out a calendar and daily schedule. But, he added, the calendar will still have a Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and spring break.

He said each semester would have roughly 60 days, and other schools that follow the schedule end each with a three-day weekend that allows a professional development day for teachers.

During each semester, students take only five classes, which will run about an hour to 63 minutes.

With fewer and longer classes in the day, Schreder said teachers and students can devote more time to the learning process.

"They're able to really get in-depth with their learning," he said. "With an eight-period day, you're just like boom, boom, boom. You're not really able to reflect on what the teachers are presenting."

He added that students will be able to take more electives with the extra semester.

And each day, an hour will be devoted to family time, where students and faculty in each house spend time together. Half the time would be spent engaged in an activity such as reading scripture, watching a video or listening to a spiritual song and Mass, while the other half would be a flex period.

"Students could go see different teachers to get help with homework or prepare for a test," the principal said. He said clubs and organizations could also use the time to meet.

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (2):Education, Religion