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The City Journals

Brighton to introduce flex period this school year

Jul 29, 2020 11:33AM ● By Julie Slama

Brighton Bengals can enter the AP Capstone program, which challenges and showcases top academic learners. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

If possible, with the guidelines of COVID-19, Brighton High School students will be back learning in-person this fall. Not only will the students have to learn to navigate through detours circling their classrooms because the school is being rebuilt on the same site, they will have to navigate a new class schedule format.

Brighton is unique in Canyons School District as it’s the only school on trimesters instead of the traditional quarter system. Periodically, students, their families and teachers are asked if they want to continue on the trimester system; this past year, the school community council reached out to find the answer was affirmative, Principal Tom Sherwood said.

Sherwood said that survey results showed the community continued to support trimesters, about 60% in favor to 40% opposed.

“We had a lot of feedback at first that the trimester no longer meets the needs of the students, so it made sense to reach out with a survey,” he said. “I taught here on trimesters for five years and it’s a good schedule where kids get to see their teacher every day for a little more than 60 minutes instead of 90-minute blocks every other day, but I understand the concerns.”

Those opposing had just reasons, he said, such as Brighton students’ schedules didn’t align with younger students’ school breaks, making it difficult for families.

“We’ve worked on that recently, so now there’s only one or two days typically that aren’t the same as the rest of the district,” he said.

Another concern is that students have less opportunities to enroll in elective credits.

“With a four-year block schedule, students can take 32 elective credits where at Brighton, our students only have 30,” he said. “It becomes difficult for our AP (advanced placement) students who take courses all three trimesters, so they’re sacrificing .5 electives, which at times is a challenge and comes as a cost.”

Sherwood also said it is difficult for the English Language Learners (ELL) who need the English support class, which therefore limits their electives as well.

So, like some Utah high schools already have done and have met success, Brighton is introducing a flex period—a 40-minute class period where, for example, students can seek teachers’ help in their coursework, which should reduce anxiety if students can’t get to school early or stay after school because of transportation issues or they hold jobs or participate in extracurricular activities, he said, adding that it also guarantees that teachers receive their lunch period.

“This way, we’re providing students an opportunity to keep up with their work, get additional support in math, science or a subject they need, and if not, they can work on homework,” he said. “It also allows our AP students to take a required class, such as financial lit (literature) or PE, during the flex period and it opens up more flexibility with their schedules. A high number of our AP students are involved in performing arts, but many find their schedules haven’t worked in the past and this should help. And with our ELL students, for three days, they are in class during the flex time, and then, the other two days, they’ll be in study hall. This allows them to have the support they need and flexibility in their schedules.”

Students also can make up missed work during the flex period, including tests. Sherwood says it will benefit student-athletes and students involved in extracurricular activities, who may have to leave school early for competitions.

Sherwood sees this addition to the schedule as a win for students.

“They’re still seeing their teachers every day, reinforcing concepts and learning the material, but now they’ll have more options in their schedules,” he said. “We talked to other schools across the state where it was working and saw we could make it work to fit our needs.”