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Cassidy
11-11-2013, 05:35 AM
Hi. I've been absent from AW for awhile and I hope you will forgive me popping back in with a request for help... A helpful person in the YA forum suggested I ask this question over here.

Here it is: I am Canadian and most of my books to date are set in Canada, but my current teen novel is set in St. Pete's, Florida (for various complicated reasons). So I have a few questions:

First, school. Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior... instead of grade 9, 10, 11, 12, right? And does it go by calendar year of birth? That is, would my main character, who will turn 16 in December, be in her junior year?

Also, do teens have spare periods, where they are at school but not in class? And if so, do you call them spares or is that a Canadian thing?

And finally- if anyone here is from St Petes, I would love to hear any opinions or details about the city that you care to share. Favorite restaurants, coffee shops, places to walk or hang out, beaches, areas to live in (well-off family, parent works at university), teen stuff and high school info, the grocery store you shop at, major landmarks- anything at all!

Cheers- Robin

melindamusil
11-11-2013, 06:19 AM
9, 10, 11, 12 and freshman, sophomore, junior, senior are pretty interchangeable. I could say "he's in ninth grade" or "he's a freshman" and it would basically mean the same thing. One caveat: sometimes you need to say if it's freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior in high school or in college. But generally that info is gained from context - you would NOT need to write, over and over, "he's a freshman in high school".

Yes, it's by birth year. It all starts back in kindergarten - you start kindergarten when you are five years old. There is some variation - some districts require the kid to be 5 years old before July 1, some Sept 1, and everywhere in between. Sometimes the parents will wait a year before the kid starts kindergarten to allow him to mature a bit, especially if he has one of those "in between" birthdays. By the time the kids are in high school, many (most?) students will have moved to a different school district. You might have a few students who were held back a grade or skipped a grade (though that is not too common anymore). So there is a possibility of an age variation of at least year or year-and-a-half within one grade. (16 would be sophomore or junior year, I think, so that is fine.)

I think "spare periods", as you call them, are reasonably uncommon just because of school security. Very few schools will allow the kids to wander the campus unsupervised - remember, we have trouble with school violence down here! Some schools might have a "study hall", where the students are required to report to a particular classroom and are free to study or engage in quiet activity during the class period, but there would be a teacher who would take attendance.

But also, at least in my experience, there were so many "required" classes that the only people in my school who ever got a class period with no class were the seniors in high school, who'd tested out of classes in years past. (This was in the midwest, so it might be different in Florida.)

ULTRAGOTHA
11-11-2013, 06:39 AM
Pinellas County School District (https://www.pcsb.org/) (I think that's the right district.)

Some information on St Petersberg schools (http://www.greatschools.org/florida/st.-petersburg/).

Students in that district must be 5 before September 1 (https://www.pcsb.org/images/stories/Academics/PreK/VPK-Summer-Flyers-2012-13/ENGLISHsummerflyer4-22-13.pdf) (.pdf) to enroll in pre-K. (6 to enroll in Kindergarden and 7 for first grade.) So for your character, the year she turned 7 she was too young to start First Grade. She would have started first grade the fall after she turned 7. (Assuming they had the same policy back then.)

The school year starts in August or September. Your character would probably be in 9th grade the year she turns 16 in December.

In some school districts that would put her in middle school. In some she'd be a freshman in high school.

In my school we called "free" periods study periods.

Mark Moore
11-11-2013, 06:41 AM
I live in Florida (not St. Pete but around an hour north).

When I was in high school (1992-1996), I never heard of anyone having a free/spare period. If you'd finished all of your math and/or science requirements before senior year, you'd choose an elective class.

The one exception was the Marine Biology class that I had during junior year. We had a sub one day, and most of the class went out of control. After our regular teacher returned, the principal (I think) was with him. The sub had written up an interesting demerit: the entire class except for a few people. Since it was impossible to send so many students to the in-school suspension room (I never came across detention in any of my schools; I only ever heard of it on TV), I and a few other students were given passes to go to the library for that period while ISS was held in the classroom.

Mark Moore
11-11-2013, 06:44 AM
Also, if your characters originated from out of state, they might be younger. I'm from Chicago and started kindergarten when I was 4 (turned 5 in October). I graduated high school in Florida at 17.

storygirl99
11-12-2013, 08:21 PM
It's pretty common to say "9th grade" for freshman year in high school. A little less common to use "10th grade" for sophomores. Juniors and seniors are rarely called 11th or 12th graders for some reason.

Although it's not uncommon to use grade numbers, we would always say "9th grade," not "grade 9."

When I was in high school (waaaay long ago) we called extra periods "free periods" and we were allowed to go off campus, but I understand that is rare today.

cornflake
11-12-2013, 10:30 PM
I'm not in Fla., but am in the U.S., and agree the numbers/names for grades are totally interchangeable. However, the rest I'd say depends on the school. Public vs. private is very different - there aren't the same age things in private because there's no standardized cutoff for K, though with people redshirting kindergartners now it's all over the place in public too.

Stuff like free periods/study halls (term varies), also varies due to school, as does what you can do during it.

blacbird
11-12-2013, 10:42 PM
Another detail, perhaps minor, is that some school districts have "junior high school", consisting of 7th and 8th grade, with "high school" being the upper four. Other places, like where I live, have "middle school", with 7th, 8th and 9th, and "high school" with 10th, 11th and 12th. In either arrangement, 9th graders are still high school freshmen and their grades count toward graduation.

caw

jennontheisland
11-13-2013, 04:21 AM
9th graders are still high school freshmen and their grades count toward graduation.

caw
I don't understand this part. How can grade 9 work count toward graduation? Passing grade 12 means graduation. Doesn't it?

Saanen
11-13-2013, 05:37 AM
In order to graduate high school, you have to have a certain number of credits (passing grades) in a set number/type of classes. If, say, you fail all the math classes you take, you can't graduate. (More likely, you'd end up repeating the classes in summer school so you can graduate.) It's similar to college that way but without the freedom to choose very many, or any, electives in most schools. The high school curriculum varies somewhat from state to state; I don't know about Florida's but you can probably find it online if you need it.

High school is considered ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades no matter how that's divided up, so any courses attempted in any of those grades "count" toward the final for graduation. Before my sophomore year, I moved from a county that had junior high schools of seventh, eighth, and ninth grades to a county with middle schools of seventh and eighth grades only, so I started high school in tenth grade but my ninth grade courses were part of my high school career. Sorry if that's confusing!

ULTRAGOTHA
11-13-2013, 05:53 AM
jennontheisland: To graduate high school in almost every district in the US, a student must have a certain number of class credits in various areas. For example, 4 credits of English, 4 credits of Math, 3 credits Social Studies, 3 credits Science....etc.

Having a 4 credits of English at the eighth grade level doesn't count towards those graduation requirements.

4 credits of English at the ninth grade level would count towards graduation.

ETA: or what Saanen said.

Little Anonymous Me
11-13-2013, 05:57 AM
Florida girl here. Not from St. Pete, but have known several inhabitants.



My birthday is 4 days after the cutoff, so I had to wait a year to start school. As others have said, 16 in December is too young to be a junior, unless she's from out of state or skipped a grade.


What you're going for is called study hall, and no, we don't have them. You either have block scheduling (4 classes each day, rotating every other day) or you take all 7/8 classes in one day. I wish I'd gotten a free period! :tongue And another thing--the South embraces open plan schools, so there are a lot of high schools with one big central courtyard and halls that are actually open air, meaning only the classrooms are fully indoors--which sucks when it rains.





Another detail, perhaps minor, is that some school districts have "junior high school", consisting of 7th and 8th grade, with "high school" being the upper four. Other places, like where I live, have "middle school", with 7th, 8th and 9th, and "high school" with 10th, 11th and 12th. In either arrangement, 9th graders are still high school freshmen and their grades count toward graduation.

caw


We don't do that down here. We refer to it as middle school, and it always ends with 8th grade. I never knew 9th was counted as middle school until my mother's friend in Nebraska mentioned it. It's an odd concept to me. And for some bizarre reason, the Florida schoolboard, in its infinite wisdom, decided we would no longer call it junior high sometime around me being in third grade. It was one heck of a transition for parents, considering some of the schools they'd attended had to be renamed.



I don't understand this part. How can grade 9 work count toward graduation? Passing grade 12 means graduation. Doesn't it?


No. If you fail one of the four grades, you don't graduate. You've got to repeat until all grades are passed. You can't even get to 12th grade without passing 9-11, as there's a certain number of class credits required for a diploma.

jennontheisland
11-13-2013, 06:11 AM
Ah. High school treated like college. That explains the counting towards part. Thanks.

In Canada (at least, when I graduated 20 years ago) if you fail enough classes, you fail the grade, or you have to take lower level classes in the next grade up. You can take grade 11 classes for the ones you passed, but you will still be considered to be in grade 10 as you complete the ones you need.

Mark Moore
11-13-2013, 08:40 AM
Another detail, perhaps minor, is that some school districts have "junior high school", consisting of 7th and 8th grade, with "high school" being the upper four. Other places, like where I live, have "middle school", with 7th, 8th and 9th, and "high school" with 10th, 11th and 12th. In either arrangement, 9th graders are still high school freshmen and their grades count toward graduation.

When I attended school (in Florida), grades 6-8 were middle school, and grades 9-12 were high school.

From what I understand, after I graduated, my high school built a separate building or whatever for incoming freshmen and wouldn't integrate them with the other students until sophomore year.

Xelebes
11-13-2013, 10:11 AM
I don't understand this part. How can grade 9 work count toward graduation? Passing grade 12 means graduation. Doesn't it?

In Alberta schools, while we do not include grade 9 in the curricula of credits of sorts that we take, have a curriculum of credits that we must meet to graduate. So in grade 10, you might not get your science courses, fine arts or shop courses which will then have to be made up in grade 11 or grade 12 or else you don't get your diploma.

blacbird
11-13-2013, 11:51 AM
A major point in this thread is that there is no U.S. national standard. And the question was asked about the U.S. We'uns here still consider ourselves fifty little colonies associated in a loose arrangement of convenience, so it's all up to local school districts, pretty much, how they structure these things.

caw

Cassidy
11-14-2013, 02:51 AM
Thanks so much to all you wonderful people! I can change my character's age slightly so she turned 16 in August... and make her a sophomore instead of a junior... which means she is in tenth grade (not to be referred to as grade 10). I think :P

I very much appreciate all the help and information.