FUHSD aligns bell schedules district-wide

New four-block bell delays start times, and leaves questions about after school activities

By Renee Wang

Incoming and current students will experience a revamped bell schedule beginning in the 2018-19 school year. Changes include a new start time and three instead of four tutorials per week. However, total tutorial time distributed throughout the week remains the same.

The new schedule also removes the “seventh skinny” period, where students meet daily but for a shorter amount of time. The loss will affect classes such as AVID, which operates during said period. AVID and literature teacher Shawnee Rivera, who voted for the four-block schedule, said she hopes that the AVID dynamic will remain unchanged by the loss of the “seventh skinny” period.

The revised schedule will take effect in the 2018-2019 school year. Photo courtesy of the HHS website.

“I really appreciate seeing my AVID students every single day and ending my day seeing them … I’m hoping I will still get to see my [students] everyday, because they will be here either during morning tutorials [or] during lunch,” Rivera said.

The revised schedule was not created in conjunction with the failed Senate Bill 328, which would have made middle and high schools in California start at 8:30 a.m. or later, Principal Giglio said.

Students are now given the option of a “true no first period,” Giglio said, where they will be able to attend school at a later time every day of the school week. This is a change from the current “no first period option,” where a student can only attend school later for three out of the five day school week, Giglio said.

The creation of the new bell schedule was spearheaded by the FUHSD Wellness Taskforce, following a petition for school start times to be pushed back. Created in 2015, the Wellness Taskforce is open to all members of the community and serves to provide a platform to address issues such as stress and sleep deprivation in students, according to the FUHSD website.

The committee has been pushing for later school start times in particular, citing evidence from an American Academy of Pediatrics study correlating later school start times and the reduction of chronic sleep loss.

Parents and different groups of students who showed up to the meetings hosted by the Wellness Taskforce were interviewed and staff members were put on panels, Giglio said.

The two-year process of revising the bell schedule also involved various surveys regarding sleep schedules. Giglio said he estimates that 25 percent of the school population answered the surveys.

“[The schedule] has gone through so many people; I don’t think there isn’t a person who has touched it some way or the other,” Giglio said.

The new schedule change is not exclusive to HHS; all FUHSD schools will have aligned bell schedules. A stipulation in teacher’s contracts allows them to vote on the schedule, Giglio said.

Teachers were presented with two options: a two-block, where there will be block periods two days of the school week or a four-block schedule, where four days of the school week would  have block periods. HHS, FHS and CHS opted for the four-block option while MVHS and LHS opted for the two-day block.

The alignment of the schedule allow students hoping to take a class not offered at their current campus to take it at another FUHSD campus that offers their desired class. Furthermore, it makes it easier for the district to share teachers who work on more than one FUHSD campus.

English teacher Sara Moreno voted for the four-block schedule due to its similarities with the current bell schedule. Moreno said she believes that time will only tell the effectiveness of the bell schedule at improving student sleep schedules, in addition to other things such as staff development.

“I’ve heard a couple students already say that they are just gonna go to sleep later, and that it’s not really going to make too much of a difference in their sleeping pattern,” Moreno said.

Similarly, PTSA President and parent Kay Zeren said she believes that there are a lot of different components to the mental health wellbeing of high school students today, such as homework and pressures from the current college process.

Zeren said that the schedule change might be a problem for parents with more than one child, who have to drop their children off at different schools with staggered start times.

The bell schedule changes also bring up several other issues regarding traffic, after school activities and bus schedules.

“I think that cutting down on tutorials has a negative effect on the school because we do not have as much time to catch up on our missing work,” sophomore Dristi Thakur said. “The impact of late starts also causes more people to walk to school, instead of parents dropping kids off, because parents have to leave for work earlier, and it also might mess with the bus schedule.”

Regarding how the schedule affects the bus schedule, the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and district will work together, and meetings are being made to reach a compromise, Giglio said.

After school activities, athletics in particular, pose new challenges as well.

“The problem with sixth and seventh period at the end of the day was that you could not opt out of either to get to sports on time,” Giglio said.“We are having conversations with the athletic leagues to see if we can move [practice or game] times.”

A proposed solution is putting students in classes that do not coincide with the day they have sports. However, this solution is not a cure-all due to the complexities in schedule placements, Giglio said.

“We are never going to please everybody. But we can try [our] best to get the most information we can to make the best choice,” Giglio said.