Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 9, 2010

Paly changes fall schedule to allow longer classes

'Block schedule' intended to ease student stress

by Chris Kenrick

Palo Alto High School this fall will move to a daily schedule featuring longer class periods with fewer classes each day, Principal Jacquie McEvoy announced Wednesday.

Rather than the traditional seven class periods each day, a student carrying seven classes would have four classes one day and three classes the next. One day a week, all seven classes will meet, as in the past.

Paly already has two days a week of the so-called "block schedule," and this change will increase that to four days a week.

Other schools in the area, including St. Francis High School, have institutionalized the block schedule as a way of easing student stress, partly because the schedule facilitates a slightly later start time.

A committee of Paly teachers since last September has been re-evaluating the school's class schedule, and spoke with St. Francis, Saratoga High School and San Mateo High School about the idea, according to the Paly Voice.

McEvoy said a final decision was reached by the school's leadership team following a recommendation from the 30-member Bell Schedule Action Team.

Details of the new schedule still need to be worked out.

"Teachers will really have to change the way that they are teaching," McEvoy told Chloe Chen and Lucas Chan of the Paly Voice last month.

"Lecturing for 90 minutes is not what a block period is for.

"They will need a bigger variety of instructional strategies. We need to give teachers time to develop those and to collaborate with other teachers."

McEvoy said teachers will be given three "professional development days" over the summer to support the transition. In addition, Paly's Educational Council (leadership team) will participate in a full-day retreat on the topic April 21 and, the next day, Paly departments will meet to review the work of the Educational Council.

"I want to personally thank all the members of the Ed Council and the Bell Action Team for how thoughtfully they have worked through this decision," McEvoy said in an e-mail to Paly's faculty and staff. "Kudos to you all."

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

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