All-level committee works on new bell schedule for next year

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As seen in the March 7 print edition.

Marguerite Alberts, spotlight editor

A committee consisting of teachers from all departments and administrators are currently working on changing and updating the bell schedule for next year. The committee includes Principal Carter Paysinger, House A Assistant Principal Amy Golden, science teacher Chris Bushée, math teacher Michelle Stern, English teacher Bill Hiatt, physical education teacher Vonzie Paysinger, special education teacher Gregg Riesenberg and guidance counselor Kate Marks.

The driving factor behind the desire to change the current bell schedule is the school’s desire for regularity. According to Golden, “The one thing that held true among teachers, parents and students was that they would really like consistency.”

The differing day-to-day schedules confuse faculty, teachers and students alike.

“Neither one of [the bell schedules] is especially intuitive when they begin and end, and that kind of thing nobody seems to remember,” Hiatt said.  “If it were just me, I’d contribute it to age, but seeing as my teenage students can’t figure out when things are beginning and ending either, it’s probably just overload.”

Hiatt doesn’t anticipate there ever being an elimination of either period one or period seven, even if students view it unfavorably.

“I don’t think they would have existed in the first place if some people didn’t need them. It’s the students that take seven classes that drive those [seven periods],” Hiatt said. “So, no, I don’t think we can or should eliminate it. I think if we could find a way to time the differently, that might be helpful.”

The committee has several factors to take into consideration to create an effective bell schedule. For the entire school year, the state of California requires that public-school schedules consist of a total of 64,800 minutes; however, those minutes must consider contractual minutes described in the teachers’ contract that are further broken down into instructional minutes. Furthermore, by contract, lunch has to occur at a set time.

“It’s a huge puzzle,” Golden said. “The teachers’ contract says you can’t go over seven and half hours of a workday. That gives [teachers] 15 minutes before their first class so we have to look at that. Then there are a certain number of instructional minutes that they are allowed to have in a week and we can’t go over that.”

Students generally prefer the Wednesday-through-Friday schedule to the Monday-Tuesday schedule. Junior Matthew Sater, who is involved with multiple extracurriculars including volleyball, Radio Airlift, band and robotics, finds the Monday/Tuesday schedule particularly obtrusive.

“Leaving to away games at lunch on Mondays or Tuesdays forces athletes to miss that day’s period 6 academic class, but our schedule later in the week allows student-athletes to not miss any of our time as students,” Sater said.

The three main issues that the committee is taking into consideration are block schedule, the length of the school day and when the school day begins and ends.

“We are trying to do what we can to provide as many instructional minutes as possible within the realistic constraints,” Hiatt said.

As an English teacher, Hiatt would prefer a bell schedule that consistently contains block periods and starts later. This year, he has noticed that students are having more trouble with the early starting time of first period.

“It’s not a natural time,” Hiatt said. “More of my students this year are really having trouble with a seven class schedule with one starting at 7 o’clock in the morning.”

Block schedule is highly debated among teachers and students. Some believe that more block would be helpful, while others would prefer not to have block at all.

“A lot of teachers also say, especially people that are a proponent of the block schedule, if you’re only going to give me a block once a month, don’t, because there is a rhythm along with the block schedule and getting used to that,” Golden said.

The committee aims to have a completed draft of a new schedule by Spring so that they can present it to the Board of Education, who will then decide if it will be enacted in subsequent years.

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