A Kamloops parent argues there are downsides to the quarter semester system the school district has implemented for the 2020-2021 school year and would rather see more options.
Jan Atkinson, who has three daughters attending different schools in Kamloops this fall, said she would like to see multiple options offered for different courses — the quarterly model, a traditional two-semester system and the implementation of video-conferencing in the classroom.
“It’s nerve-racking,” Atkinson said about sending her children back to school amidst a pandemic, noting one of her daughters is a type one diabetic.
Also known as the Copernican model, the quarter semester system has been introduced to control the flow of students and reduce the possible spread of the novel coronavirus.
Students will take two courses at a time over 10-week periods, with a 2.5-hour class in the morning, followed by a lunch break, followed by another 2.5-hour class in the afternoon.
Atkinson took the quarterly system for a year back in the 1990s while attending Clarence Fulton secondary in Vernon.
She said the main drawbacks were that the days are too long and the semester was too short.
“It was just too long [a day] to focus on one thing and I never had a chance to properly take things in,” Atkinson said of her experience.
“I, for one, had a super hard time with English. Back then, I really didn’t get it and sitting in a room talking about verbs and acronyms all day was not anything I was really interested in, so it just kind of goes over your head a little bit.”
She said the 10-week semester is also too short a time frame to properly absorb all the information one receives, compared to the length of a two-semester system.
She said the added amount of time a student could go without taking some courses between years under the quarterly system is also a concern.
She noted the setup also makes sick days more costly.
Atkinson said she changed schools because she struggled with the Copernican model and went on to become a straight A student, graduating with honours under a two-semester system.
Bill Hamblett, the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary schools, said that while the quarter semester system has been used in the district in the past, it will be a shift.
He said students in need of support will receive it, regardless of how long the class is held.
“You’re going to teach differently to some extent in a longer class, too,” Hamblett said. “I think it gives you the ability to go a little bit deeper and you’re going to know your students really well, too, because you’re with them for half a day.”
Hamblett said the break-up of classes from year to year is also a concern in the traditional two-semester system, albeit it is a bit more amplified in the quarter system.
As for sick days, Hamblett said there will be flexibility in schools when it comes to missed work.
Hamblett advised that parents with any specific questions about the return to school can contact their respective schools, which will be communicating more information this week about cohorts and timetables.
• Secondary students are to be in learning group cohorts of 120 during classes, but different students from different cohorts may be in common areas at the same time, which is when they will need to wear masks if they cannot distance from one another.
Hamblett said this week’s orientation training for students will help ensure rules are followed.
“Kids don’t live in a bubble. They know if they go to Walmart, their parents wear a mask, or if they work at McDonald’s, they have to wear a mask. It’s not going to be new to them,” he said.
Cohorts won’t be segregated to certain areas of a building, but rather limited to a group of people.
“In your afternoon class, you might have some kids from your morning class, but you won’t have any kids from outside your 120 in the afternoon,” Hamblett said.
He said most secondary schools will have the Copernican model, except for Brocklehurst Middle School and Kamloops School of the Arts. Brocklehurst will remain on a linear school year and KSA will use a hybrid of the quarterly and traditional semester system, in which two classes will be held per day alternating days with two others for a total of four classes per semester.