Growth and development of the band in size and skill has been astounding since they took to the field a few years ago. Their pep music and halftime performances showing increasingly complex choreography, solo acts, snappy uniforms and flag twirlers, has revealed the enthusiasm and dedication of this group of student musicians.
Last week, their third-place ranking edged out some much larger schools from northern Utah that operate with more resources and enrollments. Our scrappy musicians, most of whom have been involved with band since seventh grade, wowed the judges and crowds at Dixie State University where the competition was held.
In order to participate in marching band at Grand High, students must arrive at school at 6:30 a.m. and practice for more than an hour before regular school begins. This scheduling requirement is largely the result of Grand High’s trimester system, which made news last week when a group of parents met with Grand County School District Superintendent Scott Crane to discuss their concerns about it. The trimester system allows for five 70-minute classes to be taught during the regular school day, and differs from other systems that might allow six or seven classes per day.
Some parents (myself included) have long complained about the trimester system, which went into effect when the current high school was built about 15 years ago. For more than a decade the merits of long vs. shorter classes have periodically been debated, as have the scheduling limitations and opportunities. I shrugged with disappointment last week when I saw that yet another wave of parents from a successive generation of students had mustered forces to meet with district officials, knowing full well that the entrenched ideas and faculty at the high school will in all likelihood dig in their heels to keep the current system in place.
While there may be some bonuses to the current schedule, I think concentration issues and limits to class variety are serious concerns. My biggest complaint is that students can’t study their core classes on a year-round basis. It has long been recognized that students during extended breaks such as summer don’t retain some of what they have been taught. Summer, when coupled with a trimester, means students are going for half the year without consistent lessons in math, English and science.
It takes skill and organization for instructors to teach from bell to bell. Longer classes can result in lax time and boredom in what I already see as a short school day. Sure there are times when a longer class can provide for labs and deeper study, but attention spans don’t generally last that long. Teachers, however, support the current schedule for many reasons, after all, they have to prep and grade for fewer classes than another schedule might require.
When my kids were little a dozen years ago I didn’t pay much attention to the high school, but I was aware of parent grumblings about the trimester system, and I heard about meetings that fell on deaf ears at the district level. When my older child was ready to leap from middle to high school, I became active with a group of parents to try and change the schedule. Our kids were in band and we wanted them to keep playing. The high school music program had waned largely because students couldn’t enroll in it year-round. We tried to rally forces from other parents who had argued against the trimester schedule several years prior, but those parents were worn out and discouraged about the prospects of change.
So in the name of allowing for year-round music classes, we held several meetings with faculty and administration and heard the same arguments from some of the same teachers that defended the trimester system last week when yet another wave of parents raised their concerns. We didn’t get the schedule changed, but the school did provide for some alternate methods for students to get instruction online when they couldn’t take a required class via conventional methods.
That’s not ideal. The trimester ends Friday and that will be the last day the marching band will have to go to school in the dark this year. To the band I say “THANK YOU!” for a wonderful season of entertainment. To the school district and teachers, I will again ask them to consider changing the current schedule.