1. What is a “compressed calendar”?
Compressing a calendar means altering the academic schedule from an 18-week semester to a 17 or 16-week semester (the minimum mandated by California Ed Code) without loss of instructional time in the classroom. Most community colleges convert to 16 weeks to better align their schedules with 4-year institutions. Of the 110 community colleges in California, 54 have converted to a compressed calendar, and an additional 9 Districts are currently considering converting. No colleges have ever shifted back to a traditional academic calendar from a compressed academic calendar.
2. Why are we considering a compressed calendar at Santa Rosa Junior College?
In response to increasing faculty interest, the All Faculty Association and Academic Senate sponsored a Task Force beginning spring 2009 to explore the possibility of a compressed calendar at Santa Rosa Junior College. Community Colleges that have adopted a 16-week semester consistently report between 1 and 2% increase in student retention and success. Some colleges offer a winter intersession, allowing students to fast-track their academic studies. The 16-week semester more closely aligns with many UC and CSU formats, facilitating the transition of transfer students. The compressed calendar offers greater convenience for students who are concurrently enrolled at more than one institution. Colleges that have converted to the compressed calendar report overall satisfaction with increased scheduling flexibility. Faculty and administrators appreciate the additional time to prepare for classes, process grades, and bring closure to previous term activities before the start of the next academic term.
3. How would the new schedule affect instructional time?
We are interested in developing a schedule that replicates as closely as possible the same amount of load/instructional time that we have under the current semester length. If a three unit class currently is loaded/meets for 52.5 hours per semester (3 hours x 17.5 weeks = 52.5 hours), in the compressed schedule the class would still load/meet for 52.5 hours, but would require more instructional time per week. The same calculation would be applied to the lab portion of any class. Class hours may include one 10-minute break per hour, and the need for 10 minutes of passing time would also be calculated into the schedule.
4. How would class times be affected?
Scheduling of courses must be consistent with the class hours indicated in the approved course outline for completion of the course. We will be evaluating compressed calendar schedules at a number of community colleges in California and looking for a model that best fits SRJC. Individual class schedules must be based on five-minute increments for starting and ending times, so a 3 unit class that meets for 17.5 weeks from 9:00 am to 10:20 am two days per week, with 10:20 to 10:30 allowed for passing time, would meet for 16 weeks from 9:00 am to 10:25 am with 10:25 to 10:35 for passing time. We will still have at least 10 minutes of passing time between classes.
5. How would lab times be affected?
The same math used to calculate minutes of instruction for lecture classes can be applied to lab classes to estimate how the schedule would be different under a compressed calendar. The calculated time may be different depending on if the lab meets one, two or more times per week.
6. Would the change to fewer instructional days affect our paychecks?
No. Since no instructional time is lost under a compressed calendar our paychecks would not be affected.
7. Would the change to fewer instructional days affect retirement through STRS?
No, the compressed calendar would not affect STRS retirement.
8. Would we still have a finals schedule?
Some colleges vote to eliminate the finals template and hold exams during the last week of instruction. Most colleges vote to offer finals during the 16th week of the semester. We will need to evaluate the best alternative for SRJC.
9. Would I have to change my syllabus?
Yes, you would need to modify your syllabus because the number of class sessions would change.
10. Would I have to go to the Curriculum Committee to change my course?
No, the curriculum, unit value, and student learning outcomes would all remain the same under a compressed calendar, therefore you would not need to bring changes to the Curriculum Committee.
11. Would there be a winter intersession?
We will have to evaluate this for SRJC. Some colleges have added winter intersession as a way to offer students a chance to take additional classes during the academic year. It would also offer additional employment opportunities for faculty.
12. Would summer session be longer?
It is possible that a longer summer session could be offered, but that will be a function of the negotiations which would follow a decision to move to a compressed calendar.
13. Could we have 3 trimesters of equal length instead of 2 semesters and shorter intersessions?
Yes. However, this is not a popular option. The State mandates that we teach 32 to 35 weeks a year, and will not pay us for more. This means we can divide the schedule into two terms, resulting in two 16 to 17.5-week semesters; or we can divide the schedule into three terms, resulting in three 11.67-week trimesters (usually called quarters). Summer session is not considered an additional term; FTES generated during the summer is applied to either the spring or fall term. The State has not received an application for a district to move to a trimester academic calendar, but three community colleges have been approved for the quarter system (Lake Tahoe College, Foothill College, DeAnza College).
14. Would there be a Spring break?
Some colleges have determined that student motivation is negatively affected by spring break and have opted to move the week off to another time. For example, Mt. San Antonio College voted to eliminate Spring Break in order to accommodate a 10-week winter intersession. We will need to evaluate the best scheduling scenario for SRJC.
15. Could we include a “college hour” in the schedule to accommodate extracurricular activities for students?
In order to decide whether a college hour is feasible for SRJC, we will need to evaluate a variety of potential schedules and look at overall facility use. Some departments may be able to adjust class schedules around a college hour and others may not. We will also evaluate the demand for extracurricular activities and meetings during this time.
16. What implications does this calendar have for allied faculty?
Our initial impression is that a compressed calendar would give librarians and counselors greater flexibility in offering services to students, faculty, and staff. For example, students would have more time before the beginning of the semester to meet with a counselor and develop an academic plan. If we lengthen the summer session or add a winter intersession then we would need to change the counselors’ schedule and expand library hours—and that has a cost to the District.
17. What implications does this calendar have for classified staff?
Classified staff would experience no reduction in their regular annual work
schedule as a result of this calendar. We will need to evaluate the impact of compressed calendar on classified staff.
18. Are student fees/tuition for the shorter terms the same as those for the full semesters?
Yes. All fees remain the same from term to term unless there are changes imposed by the State of California.
19. Would a compressed calendar affect our flex activities?
Possibly, but this is a function of negotiations. Some colleges vote to move flex days to the beginning or end of the semester, since placing them within the primary terms has the effect of lengthening the instructional year for students with no instructional benefit for them. We need to evaluate the best practice for SRJC.