EDMONTON -- Public and Catholic high schools in Edmonton are dropping the semester schedule in favour of quarters so staff and students can better adapt if COVID-19 affects learning in the fall.

Students will receive the same amount of instructional time, the districts said in a Monday announcement, but study fewer subjects at a time in longer classes. They'll be at the school for up to two blocks per day: one subject in the morning, and a second in the afternoon. In-person classes will be two-and-a-half hours long.

According to the Edmonton Catholic School District academic calendar, the quarters will range from 40 to 42 days in length.

Diploma exams will be written at the end of each quarter in November, January, April and June.

“We know this year has been unlike any other for our students, staff and families. By moving to a quarterly schedule next year, it will allow our high schools to be nimble and adapt quickly if the situation with COVID-19 changes during the year," Edmonton Public Schools Superintendent Darrel Robertson said.

"Students can focus on fewer subjects at a time to make the transition to at-home learning easier, if needed.”

His counterpart in the Catholic division said that district has been using the quarterly, as opposed to two-semester, schedule for several years at Cardinal Collins Catholic High School Academic Centre and received positive feedback.

“Some of the benefits of the quarterly schedule is the ability to focus on fewer courses at one time and having a shorter exam break between quarters,” Chief Superintendent Robert Martin commented. 

K-12 schools, specialized high school programs and J.H. Picard Catholic will not adopt the quarterly schedule.