Students adjust from semesters to trimesters

All Renton high schools are now on a trimester system to help increase graduation access

Renton School District high school students are now on a trimester system.

This system change from semesters comes after state legislature passed a law requiring students graduating in the year of 2021 and beyond complete 24 credits. The Renton school board policy is upping that to require 26 credits before graduation.

“It was an adjustment for sure, since sixth grade we’ve always had six classes,” Hazen senior Isabella Fredrickson said. “After like 45 minutes you kind of lose your attention span. But reflecting on that, at least for me, I feel like there’s less homework, as well as I got to learn more from my teachers.”

To accommodate for this new system, students now take five class, each 72 minutes, for 12 weeks. Before they took 6 classes, 57 minutes, for 18 weeks.

Students will take 15 classes over the course of the year instead of 12. Hazen High School Principal Kate O’Brien said even though they’ve only been through the initial week, trimesters give kids the tools they need to make more class choices. O’Brien said she believes in offering students as many choices as possible to get them college or career ready.

According to the Renton School District website, “The trimester system creates a schedule that provides the flexibility to meet the individualized needs of each student, allowing enrollment in core classes and relevant elective courses.”

It also allows those behind to catch up and those on-time for graduation to explore more subject areas, according to the website.

Students at Renton High School and Lindbergh High School expressed both excitements and concerns with the trimester system during their first full week of classes.

Renton high school freshman DeMarco and Darius said the classes were too long for them. Junior LuLu at Renton said she wished they had stuck with the old system, but that it isn’t that bad besides the length of classes and doing homework until 2 a.m.

“Not everybody wants to be helped, I was doing fine, I had my honor roll, I had my six classes down, and then you went and changed it up,” LuLu said.

Another Renton High School junior Solana said she feels it’s hard for some teachers to adjust to that length of time.

Lindbergh High School junior Angel said he doesn’t really feel the difference in length of classes.

“As far as electives go, oh my gosh,” O’Brien said. “For the first time in a long time our core classes, language arts, social studies science and math have been able to add electives.”

Some new electives at Hazen include: biomedical chemistry, backyard astronomy, crime and justice, film study, AP fashion and design, welding and art, and photography. Hazen was also able to bring back creative writing and swim.

Isabella is taking the new multicultural studies class, and it’s the first time it’s been offered. She said she’s really excited because it’s something she’s always been interested in.

“As a senior it’s nice to be taking more fun classes,” she said.

Freshman Trishaunie at Renton High School said it was really cool to have more electives, and the teachers who structure the class well, make the time count.

Lindbergh freshman John said he enjoys the increase in electives, and junior Angel agreed there was more diversity in credits. John said he was really excited about swim being an elective at Lindbergh, and to see all the different options.

O’Brien said students have been excited for the new electives, trying to squeeze them all in at once.

“We’re just trying to help them know that, because of the new trimester system, they will be able to take all those classes they want over the course of the next four years,” she said.

O’Brien said there was some scheduling conflicts as they tried to implement the new system this year at Hazen. The master schedule, that looks at when all classes are offered in relation to school requirements and accommodating students, is a big puzzle and every year there’s challenges anticipated. This year, with the adjusted schedule, some classes that are only offered once a day and attracted the same students were at the same time.

“Unfortunately, that created some conflict for some students, and we know what those are now, and next year we will do everything we can to eliminate those conflicts with classes,” O’Brien said.

Isabella said that scheduling conflicts happened to everyone she talked to, including herself. For example, she said she had issues with the students for her journalism class due to scheduling conflicts. But she said it’s gotten figured out.

By the end of the year, O’Brien hopes to move through the tougher challenges presented, moving models and reflecting on how to eliminate them in the future, as well as have students, parents and other community members excited about the new offerings for students.

Hazen, Renton and Albert Talley Sr. high schools all adjusted their lunch schedules to one lunch for the entire school, O’Brien said. She said at Hazen they have made parking and seating adjustments, and lunch staff increased to get all through lunches.

“Kids are really loving having the time together, staff really like having time together and it’s much easier to supervise,” O’Brien said. “So all one lunch is going really well for us.”

Hazen senior Isabella said that upperclassmen were very hesitant about the combined lunch at first, but everyone she’s talked to has had positive experiences at Hazen and no increased leaving for lunch.

“I also think it’s overall more helpful for students because if they need help with a teacher, they can go to them during lunch because they won’t be teaching another class,” Isabella said.

One Renton High School freshman Aaron said the combined lunch is kind of crowded, but the one schedule makes it easy to make friends.

Several Renton High School students mentioned the now-combined lunch as an issue. Junior Tania said she needs to eat to be happy in her classes, but the one lunch is crowded and rushed.

“They don’t think about what we need or feel,” she said. “I get bored in class easily, I already thought last year was long.”

Junior Solana at Renton said people often get to class late because they didn’t have enough time to eat, and then they aren’t allowed to eat their meal in class.

“You know how many kids go to this school? And so that means all the lines everywhere. And I’m not trying to be late to class, I just want to eat,” she said.

Lindbergh students said their lunches are still divided in two groups, except for Fridays when they’re all together.

Tons of high school teachers’ hours, time and energy went into writing and developing curriculum for new electives, in addition to altering the classes already taught to adjust to new curriculum delivery times, O’Brien said.

Teacher preparation time also increased as Hazen educators went from teaching five of six classes each day to four of five, offering a larger preparation block time.

“A teacher commented to me the other day that it feels like a browser closed on his computer, that’s how it feels to him,” O’Brien said. “It’s one less group of kids to plan for and manage throughout the course of the day, and that feels nice.”

O’Brien said it was a lot of work that lead up to opening high school doors with a trimester system this year, from committees, the Renton schools’ curriculum and assessment department, to Renton school board.

“I’m just really thankful for all the people that worked to the very best of their ability in order to have such a smooth transition, because overall it really has been a very smooth transition for such a huge undertaking,” O’Brien said.

Last year, when it was rumor based, the only thing you would have gotten was a dramatic sigh or eye roll from Hazen students and teachers about trimesters, Isabella said. But they’ve proven to be helpful and refreshing.

“My grade seems to be the guinea pigs to everything, so our class was all irritated we had to be here for one year of doing trimesters,” Isabella said. “But everyone likes it and it seems to be a really good thing.”

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