Middle School initiates semester system

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PARIS — Oxford Hills Middle School students will remain on two campuses this fall, but will no longer be moving from one to the other school building for classes each trimester.

Instead students will remain in one building for the entire 2018-2019 school year and be studying under a semester system, said Oxford Hills Middle School Principal Paul Bickford.

Seventh grade students begin the transition from elementary school to middle school this week with morning introductory sessions at the Oxford Hills Middle School in preparation for opening day on Aug. 29. They will be the first middle school class in five years to be instructed under a semester schedule in one building.

“The change instituted for the coming year is moving to a semester schedule more in line with the high school,” said Bickford. “So students are assigned to a team either at North Campus or South Campus and will remain there for the year.”

The trimester system was instituted at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year to accommodate students moved to a leased building at 18 Madison Avenue in Oxford as a way to alleviate overcrowding at the Oxford Hills Middle School, located at 100 Pine Street in Paris. The two buildings were dubbed North and South Campus.

The staff worked throughout the 2013 summer to create a themed trimester system for the approximately 600 7th and 8th grade students at that time.

The themed trimester studies were comprised of humanities, visual and performing arts and STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The new program didn’t set different academic standards; students still received instruction each day in math and language arts instruction.

At that time, Bickford explained, students and staff rotated so that one-third of the population was at South Campus and two-thirds of the population was at North Campus. That move required a trimester system in order to have each group rotate through each campus, he said.

Although deemed successful, Bickford said recent work to create a mission statement for the middle school this past year resulted in the realization that the statement’s top priority – to make a secure and stable learning environment – could not be achieved easily rotating students each trimester.

“To make that happen, we believed it would require students and staff to remain at a single campus for the school year with a core group of students and teachers working together,” said Bickford. “This model fits with our belief in teaming, which is creating a smaller learning environment that is personalized for students, and with a focus on building positive relationships.”

Bickford said since there will be no further rotations, there was no longer a need for a trimester schedule.

“Further,” he said, “moving to a semester schedule allows for longer periods of instruction with teachers and students, with the shortest duration of a class being half a year,” he added. “This also fits with our intention to build relationships in an environment in which students and teachers get to know each other.”

Bickford said the semester schedule not only aligns more with the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s semester schedule, but provides one less transition when students move from the middle school to the high school.

The first day of school for 7th graders is Wednesday, Aug. 29. The first day of school for 8th graders: Thursday, Aug. 30.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net