If one were to ask Palo Alto High School students what classes they take, the responses would be fairly similar — math, history, English, science, a foreign language and one to two electives.
Despite Paly’s diverse population and its students’ broad interests, a limiting 7-period schedule does not allow students much time to explore new topics, especially after completing necessary credits for graduation.
By offering more semester courses instead of year-long ones, students would have many more opportunities to take new classes and discover their interests, thus making them more well-rounded with a wider mindset. Although Paly does offer a wide variety of electives ranging from Business Law to Glass Blowing, most of these classes are year-long classes, which restricts the number of electives one can take during the four short years of high school.
While some students may wish to be introduced to a certain topic, they may not have enough interest or time to take the class for an entire year. Semester classes offer students the opportunities to gain exposure to a new topic, even if one does not want to pursue the subject in the long run.
In addition, many students who change their schedules during the second semester are often left with a prep period if they are unable to find a class that fits their schedule.
Although preps may be useful and productive for some, others find that their time could be better filled with another class, especially for those who already have preps for other reasons.
When Paly sophomore Cameron Akioka decided to switch classes at the beginning of the second semester, she could not find an alternative that she liked that was also convenient for her schedule.
“I originally wanted to take Interior Design instead of Business Law for my second semester class, but all the space [in the class] was filled, and I would have to switch my whole schedule,” Akioka said. “More semester courses would be beneficial not only for me, but also for the counselors that are struggling to find the right classes for students.”
As exemplified by Akioka’s case, the addition of semester-long electives would not only speed up the course transfer process by providing a broader variety of courses for students to choose from, but students would also ultimately end up in a class that would best benefit them and their interests.
Additionally, if a class requires a prerequisite course, semester classes allow students to take the prerequisite course and the desired course in the same year.
By minimizing the amount of break time between the two courses, students can retain the information learned more effectively before taking the latter course.
Sophomore Xander Sherer believes that taking Beginning Journalism the semester before joining a publication allowed him to transition more easily than he would have if he had taken it the prior year.
“Overall, I would say that Beginning Journalism was very helpful in my transition, and without it I would probably be very lost,” Sherer said. “It was really helpful to take the class the semester before joining [my publication] because you always forget stuff over the summer, and without some practical applications of the information, it is easy to let what you learned slip out of your mind. As the saying goes, ‘use it or lose it.’”
Although some may argue that semester-long classes don’t allow enough time for teachers to delve into important topics, sophomore Miguel Moreno believes that a semester was an adequate amount of time to learn the necessary amount of information in his U.S. Government class.
“U.S Government, albeit a semester class, was able to cover information in detail in a short amount of time,” Moreno said. “Ranging from topics such as Due Process and Equal Protection to elections and ideologies, U.S. Government was able to utilize different methods to enrich the material learned.”
High school should be a time for students to discover their passions in order to pursue them in the future. By offering more semester-long courses, Paly would provide the flexibility necessary for students to dabble in many different subjects to find their interests, thus benefitting them both in the short and long run.