News

Gunn High School explores scheduling possibilities

Principal Denise Herrmann: Absolute earliest a new schedule could be put in place is January 2016

Changes for Gunn High School's bell schedule seem likely in the next school year, but it was made clear at a block-schedule panel event Monday evening that the process to decide these changes will take time, and the success of any new schedule will rely upon strong teacher buy-in and preparation.

Organized by the Gunn Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), Monday's panel featured six administrators, two teachers and one student from Bay Area high schools, including from Palo Alto High, who spoke to the pros and cons of switching to some form of a block schedule.

A group of Gunn staff, parents and students, dubbed the alternative bell schedule committee, was reconvened this spring after much community concern about student stress and the frantic pace of Gunn's schedule, under which students have six or seven classes every day of the week, with each meeting for just under an hour. The committee is expected to present a recommendation on potential bell-schedule changes to the school board this May.

All of the examples of block schedules offered Monday night – by Paly, Piedmont, Woodside Priory and Monta Vista high schools – include longer class periods (typically 90 to 95 minutes) that meet less frequently, longer built-in blocks of time for students to seek help from teachers or work on school work independently (what Gunn and Paly refer to as tutorial and have once a week) and more regular professional development time for teachers (typically in the mornings, which means a late start and more sleep that day of the week for students).

They reported positive outcomes like decreased student stress, calmer school environments, better connection between teachers and students, the ability to do more project-based learning, blended learning and other classroom innovations, and more consistency – and creativity – across courses when teachers have more time to meet and collaborate.

All of the schools' processes to put these changes in place took between one and two years, they said.

Gunn Principal Denise Herrmann, who oversaw a change in schedule at the Wisconsin high school she led before arriving at Gunn in August, said the absolute earliest that Gunn could implement a new schedule would be January 2016.

Herrmann spoke about her experience switching to a four-day block rotation, which means that two days out of the week, students had four 90- to 95-minute classes, broken up by lunch. Every other day would begin with a 45-minute block for either teacher professional development (meaning students arrived for class at 9:40 a.m.) or student support (this was changed after two years of 95-minute periods every fourth day, which students said wasn't enough). The school also built in 10-minute passing periods to give students a "mental break" between classes.

"When we did a midpoint survey before winter break of the first year, 100 percent of teachers said they would not go back," Herrmann said. "They all felt like first-year teachers; they admitted it was very, very hard, but based on what they were seeing in their own practice, having (professional learning) time and the work they were seeing from the students, they felt really good about going there."

Paly Assistant Principal Kathy Lawrence, a former teacher, stressed the importance of giving teachers the time to fully prepare and adjust their instruction. Paly switched to a modified block schedule in 2010, with all seven periods of classes on Mondays (meeting for 50 minutes), three 90- to 95-minute classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays (plus 65 minutes of tutorial for students) and four 90- to 95-minute classes on Wednesdays and Fridays.

"You cannot just squish two class periods together in a 90-minute block and expect to have good teaching," Lawrence said. "You just have to think about that time in a different way. I think it's important to have that time to reflect on your practice, to have some professional learning done to implement the block schedule."

Andrew Sturgill, a social studies teacher at Monta Vista, gave an example of his block-period lesson plan for the next day: 15 to 20 minutes dedicated to talking about the context of a film the class would later watch, 15 to 20 minutes to talk about what to look for in terms of analyzing the film (at which point the class would be over if it wasn't a block period) and then 60 minutes to watch the film, stopping from time to time to engage students and ask questions.

Paly sophomore Jordan Schilling said he and other students appreciated having more time in longer block periods to absorb the material, to complete homework and to connect with their teachers.

"I'm a very strong believer in the block schedule," Schilling said. "It really makes school much more enjoyable."

Matt Lai, dean of students at Woodside Priory, a small private high school in Portola Valley, said some students did complain in the first year after switching to a block schedule that some classes felt less engaging, efficient and effective.

"You can't lecture straight for an hour and a half where you might be able to for 45 (minutes)," Lai said.

He said Woodside Priory got pushback, in particular, from foreign language and mathematics teachers, but professional development was critical in helping all teachers with the transition.

"The block schedule is not inherent stress reduction unless it's done well," he later said in response to an audience question about how short of a timeline is practical when changing schedules.

The audience member expressed a feeling surely felt strongly throughout the Palo Alto community: "two years or even one year seems like a long time for our students to wait who have endured a lot stress and loss this year."

During a discussion about the two high schools at Tuesday night's school board meeting, member Ken Dauber urged Herrmann to consider the role that early start times play in student health, even floating a proposal that the board develop a policy that prohibits academic classes during zero period, before the regular school day starts.

Herrmann said that Gunn currently offers physical education and 10 academic classes, including advanced English, AB calculus, chemistry, blended AP economics and broadcast news, during zero period, which starts at 7:20 a.m.

Just under 300 students (15 percent of the student population) have chosen to take these classes at an earlier hour, many to accommodate athletics, other after-school activities or a desire to fit an extra class into their schedules, Herrmann said. All classes except broadcast, which produces an early-morning school news report, are offered in multiple sections throughout the day, according to Herrmann.

Paly only offers PE during zero period, which starts at 7:10 a.m. Most of the 102 students who currently take PE at that hour are athletes who often have to leave school early for games, said Principal Kim Diorio.

Dauber asked Diorio why Paly doesn't offer academic classes during zero period, and she responded: "Philosophically, because of the research on sleep."

Dauber cited this research -- in particular, research that has shown a link between sleep deprivation and teen mental health. A study referenced in a recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report found that getting less than eight hours of sleep per night "seems to be associated with an almost threefold increased risk of suicide attempts after controlling for a number of confounding variables."

Dauber also cited a recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that middle and high school students start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

In 2011, Gunn shifted its regular-schedule start time from 7:55 to 8:25 a.m. Paly moved from a 7:50 a.m. start to 8:15 a.m. the year before.

The AAP statement, which calls later school start times "an important public health measure," cites a National Sleep Foundation poll that found 59 percent of sixth- through eighth-graders and 87 percent of high school students in the U.S. were getting less than the recommended 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep on school nights.

Dauber described zero-period academic offerings as a "pretty compelling, to my mind, health issue involving several hundred students at Gunn.

"This is, I think, an opportunity for us to do something that has some impact and that's pretty consistent with not only academic and medical statements but also what we have ourselves been saying as a district," he said.

Though Dauber suggested that the board bring back as an action item at its next meeting a ban on academic classes during zero period, the board later decided to place zero periods as an information item on the April 21 meeting agenda.

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Heidi R.
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:10 am

This is a great idea! So relieved to hear PAUSD is taken a concrete and easy step toward fixing our enormous teen suicide problem in Palo Alto.

American Academy of Pediatrics stated middle and high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 AM:

Web Link

I shared a Scientific American article on the subject with Max, new Superintendent at his introduction meeting a stressing the later the start day, the stronger mental heath for tweens and teens. I'd also go a step further and propose a later start time for our middle and elementary schools: 8:30 AM for elementary, and 8:45 AM for middle school. My husband is a Stanford psychiatrist and he and his colleagues agree that sleep is a huge component in healthily mental outlooks. I noted this latest suicide was on Daylight Savings day. So the child was up an hour earlier to begin with if he stepped in front of a train at 6:30 AM, his body felt like it was 5:30 AM, which means he woke up before 5 AM. What time did he go to bed the night before? It's worth looking into. We don't function properly without sleep and already impulsive behavior is intensified.

Our family is huge advocates of healthy mental and physical health for ourselves and our kids. But sometimes, especially with the Spring baseball schedule, our kids can't get to sleep at a reasonable time to get their 10 hours per night which is key for attentive attention during school hours and a happy, healthy outlook on life.

Bravo to the PAUSD for taking a step in the right direction!


19 people like this
Posted by very concerned Gunn parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:45 am

I am very concerned about zero period. I did not know about it. @Heidi, PAUSD has NOT taken a step in the right direction -- your voice is still needed. One board member has asked that we eliminate academic classes at Gunn (Paly already does not offer them) but he was not supported by the other board members, in spite of the current suicide crisis and the unanimous opinion of medical and scientific experts that this is a no-brainer -- there should not be 300 students at Gunn heading over to academic classes that begin at 7:20 am.

I want to raise a different issue, which is the thwarting of democratic process that has occurred. There was a years-long process that involved massive community input. I attended many PTAC meetings on sleep in 2010. There was a PTAC sleep-study that resulted in the later start time decision at both high schools. There was a traffic study as I recall for Gunn. It engaged PTSA, site council, the school board, and so on. This was a big deal.

Here is a link to the PTAC report: Web Link

"Sleep deprivation has significant consequences in physical health, mental health, academic performance, tardiness, athletic performance and accident reduction (both transportation and physical injury to
compromised coordination). People must understand that putting kids to bed earlier does
not solve teen sleep deprivation or that teens are lazy. Specific biological changes affect
the average teen's sleep pattern. Parents setting age appropriate bedtimes and enforcing
wind-down time for teens is important and beneficial but parents must also recognize that
most teens will not be able to sleep until 11pm or later. Thus if teens need about 9 1/4
hours of sleep to do their best and naturally go to sleep around 11:00 pm, one way to get
more sleep is to start school later."

Then, quietly, with no public process at all, Kevin Skelly and Katya Villalobos and the Gunn IC simply rolled back all that work, telling no one what they were really doing. The school board did not know about zero period. One board member, whose children attended Gunn, was asking basic questions about it because that member had not heard of it before. The decision had been made that this was a public health response to the suicide crisis in 2010. It was a suicide prevention measure.

It was taken away by the administration with no public discussion.

And now more children are dying. I don't know if any of the children who passed away were in zero period classes. Were they? Can the Weekly investigate?

The very idea that our schools, evidently to allow some teachers to beat traffic and get home earlier as was said last night, have silently sneaked the entire camel back under the tent -- forget the nose -- undoing a years-long public health measure is shocking. I am aghast. I expect this to be fixed and now. More Gunn parents need to be involved.

At Paly, the only class is freshman and soph gym and it is for athletes, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 are not even attending at any given time because they are playing in season and are excused from gym. This means that a handful of kids at Paly are doing this and only for a placeholder gym class. Meanwhile, 300 students at Gunn are taking everything from AP econ to honors chem to AP Calculus.

This is an outrage. Everything I disliked about the last PAUSD school board was on full display last night -- the stalling, delaying, denial of science, denial of medical knowledge, failure of accountability. One board member shamefully even denied we are in a health crisis after the student board member had a full breakdown while trying to beg for changes that could stop the bleeding.

Back in 2010 this newspaper publisher wrote: "what has to happen? Do we have to have five suicides?" The incredulous tone of that seems quaint now. Yes, what has to happen? We are now in a full-blown contagion, a crisis that few schools in this country have endured given the span of time covered and the number of dead children. So I will repeat his earnest question: "What has to happen?"

If we cannot fix this then the situation is just hopeless and we can get used to this horrifying new normal.


11 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:55 am

This must be the toughest week of the year for a zero period class, regardless whether it is academic or PE. With Daylight Savings Time now starting early March instead of nearer the equinox, we are back to getting up out of bed in the dark. To get to school for 7.20 zero period, kids are biking, walking, in the dark, yet it feels like spring - not December or January.

I have had kids doing zero period class, but I don't like it. I wish there was another way.


2 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Gunn current schedule has 5-6 classes meeting per day, not all 7.


6 people like this
Posted by EC
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 11, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Broadcast goes out at 8:25, not 7:30. Basic facts are wrong in this article, when the facts are crucial.


16 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I would like to know the actual numbers of athletes taking zero period academic classes. The district gets in the habit of speaking in general terms (e.g. the majority, a good deal, most, usually, etc...)

I doubt they've even looked at the numbers. And, have they ever asked those students to see why they're taking zero period. You would think that with so much research, and being that PAUSD is in "the business" of educating and supporting our youth, that they would eliminate zero period because they value the welfare of our children.

Hopefully, Dauber's research and studies will help the district understand the correlation and will actually do something, instead of twiddling their thumbs and thinking of ways to stall any action.

At Paly, only PE is offered, and PE is only required for 9th/10th grade.

My child played 3 sports, most of her friends were given 7th period PE freshman, so that it would be their prep period in lieu of PE and they'd be out at 1:45 on most days. This gives them time to go to all of their classes and still make the game

It's not a tough decision. What's the worst that can happen by eliminating zero period entirely? At a minimum, eliminating academic classes for zero period seems like a no brainer.


21 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent of 3
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Thank you Dr. Herrmann!

A new schedule seems like a great idea given all the positives it promises: "decreased student stress, calmer school environments, better connection between teachers and students, the ability to do more project-based learning, blended learning and other classroom innovations, and more consistency – and creativity – across courses when teachers have more time to meet and collaborate."

Please don't let teacher "buy-in" delay it until January. When my boss assigns me a new project, I don't have the option to "buy-in." I just do it.


8 people like this
Posted by Elena Kadvany
education reporter of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Elena Kadvany is a registered user.

Gunn parent and EC: Thank you for pointing out those mistakes. They have been corrected.


35 people like this
Posted by VickiDee
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Everyone is assuming 0 period means students are not getting enough sleep. And making this assumption without facts. My student prefers a 0 period so she has a prep period during the day and likes to do her homework at that time. She is in bed by 10:00 every night and often earlier- even with after school sports and clubs. I like the idea of kids starting closer to 8:00 and having a longer break during the day to either get some work done or just having a social break.


11 people like this
Posted by Sounding the alarm
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:19 pm

The American Acadmey of Pediatircs recently published a report on the dangers of sleep deprivation among adolescents. They are asking all pediatricians to screen their patients for sleep deficits. In addition to causing physical health problems mimicking ADHD,and increasing risk taking behaviors among teens the most alarming find of the study is the direct link to an increase in suicide ideation. Web Link. Getting rid of zero period academics is a no brainer. Whatever problem it was designed to address is not worth the consequences. Paly wisely decided against offering academics during zero period when they switched to a later start time.

For all of you who want to do something to improve the health and well being of our children I urge you to write to our school board and superintendent to fix this as soon as possible and attend the April meeting when it will be on the agenda.


13 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I would like to thank Denise Hermann and Tom Jacoubowsky for taking this step and for working to create improvements even though it's not easy.


17 people like this
Posted by Gunn Father
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Gunn Father is a registered user.

Yes yes yes. Sleep is the long proven #1 factor in stress relief. At the risk of being negative, WHY has it taken so long for this to happen? How much more data did PAUSD need from their 'Paly experiment' to go to block schdls? Time matters, stress is a killer , let's get on with it ! Too late for my senior but better late than never for kids to come. Much of this is not new ground or rocket science. This could happen in the fall if PAUSD simply told the teachers, " this is the way it is going to be and it will happen in Aug, period. IF that doesn't work for you, you will be missed " . In the real world, this is how new policy is implemented. Time matters to these kids.


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Eek, sorry, I spaced out and sent too soon...

I meant to add that there was an important rally for Buena Vista on Monday night and a lot of families were there -- I know we wanted to go to both, but only got to the rally because of timing. I guess I support the block schedule already, I just wanted to be there.


3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:39 pm

@ Sounding the alarm and Gunn father,

Lots can go into sleep deficit. Did you know that a major study of 10-year-olds showed poor sleep correlated with indoor dampness (of the kind you can get with leaks, that correlates with asthma, etc), not just in kids with allergies, either. Our district doesn't even track asthma data, though, even though CHK Survey asks it and the EPA recommends using it as a way of gaging the efficacy of indoor air quality measures that would reduce dampness issues.


Like this comment
Posted by Tiger Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2015 at 2:26 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 2:51 pm

My children enjoy Paly's block schedule but did say that most teachers don't give them a break for the entire 90-minutes and a small break would be welcome. The block schedule is surely less stressful than Gunn's 5-6 classes per day.

However, what about M-A's start times of 8:45, 9:25, 9:40, with Wed/Thurs block periods, and 6 classes on MTF? If the teachers follow the homework guidelines, this should be the happy medium for all.

Summertime should be enough time for teachers to overhaul their teaching. They are being paid very well for teaching salaries - why should they get 3 months off? No other profession does. Trying to overhaul their curriculum during the fall/winter when school is in session isn't going to be the best situation for the students.


15 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2015 at 2:59 pm

@ Gunn Father - Well said. Look at what happened with the homework policy adopted in 2012 but never implemented due to teacher(and union) push back that it would cause too much work for them.

PAUSD needs to show some leadership and do what's best for the well-being of the students.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of College Terrace

on Mar 11, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


14 people like this
Posted by Keep zero period as optional
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 3:59 pm

I vote to keep zero period. Both my kids take zero period classes because they want to. Particularly zero period PE so that when they do an after school sport, they don't have to take PE and it is considered a prep. My kids get to bed 9:30 -10pm and get enough sleep. Yes, it's not for everyone, but for those that want it, it should still be an option.


8 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2015 at 4:18 pm

About time.

Thank you Dr. H for leading this change.


20 people like this
Posted by very concerned Gunn parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 11, 2015 at 4:19 pm

It should not be an option.

It is not safe, not healthy and not appropriate. PSN recommended against it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against it. In the past few months we have seen doctor after doctor come out against early start and for more sleep. There literally are ZERO doctors who are for this. If you want a dangerous "option" to be available that is contributing to the suicide epidemic, then go find a doctor who will sign that prescription.

Otherwise, please support our students by giving them healthy schedules and more sleep.

My kid probably always wanted to drive drunk but I didn't let him have it as an "option." Some people don't want to get immunized as an "option." Lots of gay men wanted to have unprotected sex at the beginning of the AIDS crisis before they realized that their lives were at stake and the lives of others. Some people want to smoke indoors as an "option." This is the same thing.

We have a public health crisis. Man up and act like it, PAUSD.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 11, 2015 at 6:47 pm

"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."


8 people like this
Posted by the 15%
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm

For those who want options, you have options. You can re-organize your schedule according to the new block schedule. Those who go to bed at 10 and are up at 6 can schedule tutoring, a jog, a job at that hour.

The point of zero zero period is that you will not have the option of high dosing a kid with academic subjects in one day or even high dosing them with a schedule that starts that early. At least the schools should not help that because it's not good for the average, general, population.

And people with options in PAUSD usually use the system to game something. Enough already. The option is to adjust your schedule according to what will work and is recommended for the majority.


4 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:16 pm

@the 15% - "For those who want options, you have options." - "The point of zero zero period is that you will not have the option"

Taking choice from kids isn't how you make them feel better. I hate morning classes, and wish I could have started school at noon, and gone home at 6pm. My kids now are happily up at 6 am. DOing whats best for "most" is exactly the problem, because it alienates the few. Backing off the pressure on the kids is good, but better when you empower them, trust them, and give them the flexibility to plan their day.

Mandatory 6am, 7am, 8am, 9am start times are all equally arbitrary, and any will work for some but not others. Choice and empowerment is what works for everyone.


23 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:25 pm

I would like to offer the opinion of a student it what seems to be a forum full of rightfully concerned people who do not actually attend Gunn.
In defense of zero period: it is an OPTION. Many students chose this option for various personal reasons. I believe that by 2:30 in the afternoon on any given day that my mind is not as fresh as it would have been at 8:00 am. I have many friends who take zero period classes and love it. It is a nice time to get the work done and focus without the exhaustion of the afternoons. No one is being forced, in fact everyone who signs up does so willingly and is allowed to transfer out during the first few weeks of school if it is too much.
In defense of Dr. H and Mr. J: We have had zero period for a LONG TIME. it is not for everyone, nor is it for me. (It is probably reducing stress for many students who need more time in the afternoons). But our admin are working hard to make the proper adjustments to Gunn Life and added pressure from every angle is not helpful nor productive. Also, no specific change is going to be a FIX to a much larger problem and national issue.
In defense of you the concerned citizen: Please know that while anger is a normal feeling, it will not get you anywhere. I implore you to go to the school board meetings, forums and gunn staff with RESEARCH and IDEAS to change. No one is against change, but suggestions are essential.
I love gunn, I love our community and I'm tired of people attacking a system that is not the core of the issue. Please spend your time spreading compassion and love.


1 person likes this
Posted by the 15%
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:27 pm

You forgot to say what is lost for the 15% - they will lose the option to high dose their schedule with an early morning class -considered bad for the average teen's health.

They still have the option to wake up early and do anything else outside the auspices of school property.


33 people like this
Posted by Also gunn student
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:37 pm

I'm a Gunn student too and please don't listen to these kiss up students who just want to take 8 classes to get an advantage over the mere mortal classmates (and over Paly students who can't do it). These show off gunners are raising the pressure on the rest of us Gunn students. Plus I heard that it was just some teachers like to leave early to pick up their own kids from school. Can Dr. h let them go early without making them teach a class at 7:20? I think it's terrible that we have class that early and my friend did it and she was mad stressed during that class which was an AP. Please parents and teachers give us a break. Help us to just be kids.


11 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 11, 2015 at 8:50 pm

BOE, please also consider having a later start time for Paly. Even 8:25 (same as Gunn) would help. Every school morning our family struggles (and often fails) to get our sleep-deprived night owl out of bed and to school on time. The SF MSs and HSs all start at 9-9:30 because of the research on adolescent sleep patterns. 8:15 is just too early for many teens who simply cannot go to sleep early enough to get sufficient sleep and arrive at school by 8:15.


21 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 10:21 pm

As a current Gunn Junior, I whole-heartedly object to the continual lambasting of zero-period. I took zero period PE my freshman and sophomore year and loved it. I was in bed by 10:30 every night to fall asleep at 11 and woke up at 6:40 to get to school on time. In exchange, I got off at school at 2:30 and got a start on HW at the time I was most awake. Sadly, I could not take a zero period this year, and have definitely seen the drawbacks to not having one. My grades have suffered as I'm less of an afternoon homework person.

For those who say that every student that takes a zero period is some kind of freakish over-achiever, they are wrong. I took a zero period because I'm a definite morning period and can't pay attention after 2:30. To those who think it is some kind of secret, it isn't. The option to take a zero period is clearly outlined in the course catalog and the counselors inform the students of the option. If your child is the less communicative kind, the administration requires any student who wants to take a zero period has to have parental consent and signature before signing up for the class. To those who say that people use it to take 8 periods, they can't. Gunn is not funded to provide 8 classes for a student. For those who say the teachers don't want to be there, the AP Econ teacher loves this time because it allows him to get out earlier. Teachers choose to teach an earlier class, they aren't forced to.

[Portion removed.] I understand that as parents you want a magic solution that will fix and protect your children. But there is never a clear answer to something so complicated. I believe that eliminating 0 period is not the answer.


2 people like this
Posted by sock puppet much
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 11, 2015 at 10:28 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


6 people like this
Posted by Break it down
a resident of Addison School
on Mar 12, 2015 at 12:01 am

I wasn't able to watch or attend the Board meeting. I would be curious to know if they shared how many of the 300 students taking a zero period at Gunn are enrolled in 7 or 8 academic classes. Having that data will add important perspective to how zero period is actually being used at Gunn HS. A choice for most who want to have a later prep or early end to the day? Or evidence of students taking even heavier loads than we previously imagined?

I look forward to gaining perspective on what's really going on with zero period at Gunn and hearing the Board discussion about zero period and future policy.


8 people like this
Posted by very concerned Gunn parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2015 at 12:21 am

While it may be in some way interesting to know about what is happening in zero period at a granular level, it really doesn't make any difference. The facts that matter are these:

1. There was a decision process that included the school board that resulted in late start in 2011. This involved the school, teachers, parents, PTSA, administrators, the community and PTAC. It has only been in existence for three years.

2. Doctors, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and every child psychiatrist including those that advise our district are uniformly against this kind of early start. The entire and full weight of medical science is behind late start. There are zero doctors who support this. That's really game set match let's talk about something else this is over.

4. Paly doesn't do this. Because see #3.

After we rid Gunn of zero period, It might be interesting in some academic sense to know the exact contours of exactly how screwed up this got and who screwed it up, like a post-operative forensic examination on a giant cancerous tumor. If that floats your boat, get out your microscope. But what does not make sense is a do-over on the question that was already decided in favor of late start.


8 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 12, 2015 at 6:03 am

I would like them to keep the zero period as optional as it is now.
Some kids like that way including mine. My son just sleeps early and get up early.
I don't want them to think of only some of teenagers in survey.
If my son takes zero period, he can finish up school by 2:30 most of the week and even earlier sometimes. Then he can do some other things like volunteering in daytime in week days in the community for big chunks of time in the afternoon and doesn't have to feel school is the only thing going for him.
Besides, since they didn't make another high school when Palo Alto discussed and ended up making Gunn bigger, it is hard for all students come to school at once.
Having even 20% of the students come to school earlier should ease the traffic.


10 people like this
Posted by very concerned parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2015 at 7:31 am

[Portion removed.]

Let's review. All doctors, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, against starting a school day at 7:20.

All scientific research points a single direction: starting too early is correlated with increased suicide, including several studies showing 200 and 300 percent increases in attempts even among those who have no diagnosable mental illness or depression.

[Portion removed.]

It is just plain irresponsible to advocate for a "choice" like this in a time of death and destruction.

This is a time of violence, destruction, terror and death. Every month or so a child of this community dies in an act so brutal, and so wrong and so evil that it is indescribable.

Have we normalized this? Are we now accepting that this is just the cost of greatness? The cost of "choice"? That we are so entitled as a community that we are now entitled to have great, unsupportable risks [portion removed.] In the words of the Prophet Isiah, "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. ..."




9 people like this
Posted by Very Concerned Gunn Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 12, 2015 at 9:02 am

[Post removed.]




4 people like this
Posted by Very Concerned Palo Altan
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 12, 2015 at 9:23 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


16 people like this
Posted by Stanford resident
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 12, 2015 at 9:32 am

My child signed up for zero period PE thinking it would be preferable to finish school at 2:30 and have a longer afternoon/evening for homework and sports. It didn't work out as intended because teachers would assign unexpected homework or the volume of homework would be so great that it led to long study hours and the inability to get to bed at a reasonable hour and then the need to get up very early. My child concluded that it was too difficult to regulate sleep with a zero period PE class.


22 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2015 at 9:44 am

Lots of snark here, but this doesn't seem complicated. Teenagers need sleep, according to every medical authority, including apparently pediatricians. We set our start times in the high schools later several years ago, basically for health reasons. For a teenager to get up at 6:15 or so to make a 7:20 class, and get the recommended 9.25 hours of sleep, they would need to be asleep by 9pm. Now for some reason at Gunn we have several hundred students taking academic classes at 7:20 in the morning, which violates our own start time and medical opinion. The school is building sleep deprivation into their schedule. If we can't enforce our own start time under these conditions, what is the point of a school board and rules?

I suspect the real reason for this is teacher convenience, but whatever it is, it doesn't make sense.


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Posted by very concerned parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2015 at 9:49 am

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by AnnaNonymos
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2015 at 11:36 am

AnnaNonymos is a registered user.

Here's an idea: require a student to have a doctor's note in order to have a zero period. The doctor can tell the student and parents about the health risks, and can probably pick up on if there are medical issues (including mental medical issues) are at play.


16 people like this
Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 12, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

The issue of adolescent sleep deficits is not unique to Palo Alto. Last week U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren, Gunn alum, introduced federal legislation "aimed to determine the relationship between school start times and adolescent health, well-being and performance." Web Link


Our own PTAC has already done such a study. Thank you to the above poster for providing a link to PTAC’s 2010 Student Sleep Subcommittee Report. Web Link

The committee was comprised of a who’s who list of parent advocates including former PAUSD Board of Education President Mandy Lowell, the current PiE executive director Kathy Schroeder, as well as SHARE committee member Maureen Simons, and Project Safety Net members Micaela Presti and Sunny Dykwel.

Excerpts from the report:

Studies have shown that teenagers require 9.25 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. On average, however, only 31% of the U.S. teenage population is getting this much sleep. Most physicians agree that mental and physical wellness is directly correlated to optimal sleep. The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Trustees identified the need to "Raise the level of discussion around and importance of sleep in determining physical/social/emotional health” as an initiative of its strategic plan focus for this year [2009/10].

Parents setting age appropriate bedtimes and enforcing wind-down time for teens is important and beneficial but parents must also recognize that most teens will not be able to sleep until 11pm or later. Thus if teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep to do their best and naturally go to sleep around 11:00 pm, one way to get more sleep is to start school later. Teens can naturally fall asleep by 11:00 pm or so; therefore simple math dictates the need for a start time of 9:00 am or later.

The report cites research by national adolescent sleep expert Mary Carskadon, PhD of Brown University. Here is a link Web Link
to a study she conducted in 1998, before teens were on Facebook, showing the detrimental effects of a 7:20 start time on 10th graders. These students were transitioning into high school and went from an 8:30 start time in 9th grade middle school to a 7:20 start time in high school. The study found that while they rose one hour earlier they did not change their bedtime. Compared to 9th graders the study also found that the melatonin cycle was occurring later in the evening for 10th graders. None of the 10th graders were sleeping the recommended 9 hours per night and less than half were even able to achieve an average of seven hours of sleep per night. One of the most alarming results of the study was that 64% of the 10th grade students had test results consistent with narcolepsy.

In a PBS interview Web Link
Carskadon answered the following questions about the detrimental and possibly fatal consequences of sleep deprivation (auto accidents and suicide):

And how does lack of sleep affect them?
Well, the teenagers are really put in a kind of a gray cloud when they aren't having enough sleep. It affects both their mood and their ability to think and their ability to perform and react appropriately. So we have kids out there who struggle to stay awake while driving, who could do better at sports if they could react more quickly, who are feeling blue and having trouble getting along with the adults in their environment, and also who are struggling to learn in the classroom. Sleep learning isn't really something that works. And so when you go out and see a classroom of teens sleeping, they're not learning.

So it's risky for driving. Are there other risks to it?
We think there are other risks, and we don't have all the data to know. But it's clear that one of the big risks seems to be the effect on mood and the ability for teenagers to regulate mood. We see across the country a new wave -- if not epidemic -- of depression in teenagers. We don't know yet one for one, but there's this sneaking suspicion out there that one of the things that leads into depression is this hyper-somnolence and this sort of change in overall mood and affect that some of these teenagers undergo. And I think if you're vulnerable to that pathway to depression, that is a serious risk of this huge amount of sleep debt in teenagers.

Wake up Palo Alto and put a stop to 7:20 AM academic classes. Don’t let 300 students engage in this serious risk to their health.






8 people like this
Posted by Palo alto native
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Palo alto native is a registered user.

Block schedule is the only way to go. We have already done this at Gunn High. When I attended Gunn in the 1970s, we had block scheduling. When I transition to college it was seamless thanks to the college environment at Gunn. When I was a long-term substitute at Gunn, I was surprised they shifted back to a "junior high school" environment of 6 grade periods (like what we had at Terman Junior High School).

As a college professor for the past twenty-five years, I can assure you that at both the High School and College level, block scheduling allows for a far richer academic experience. First, it allows time for student centered group projects. All my evaluations talk about how such projects were far more meaningful than a course with a bulk of direct lectures - even if filled with power point visuals, u-tube clips, and supplemental articles. Second, the option to include meaningful field trips. Palo Alto (and the peninsula at large) is the center of the new era of information, let the students tap those resources. For example, I conducted tours to Stanford's Art Museum, Hillar's Aviation Museum, Computer Museum in Santa Clara, and USS Hornet Museum in Alameda. Moreover, field trips to Google, Apple, HP, Facebook and other high tech firms would be very useful, too.

Block scheduling also allowed for inviting guest speakers. Public Officials, experts from industry, inventors, activists, and survivors of history - all had huge impacts for my students. I could not offer these amazing learning experiences without block scheduling.

On the separate issue of a so-called "zero" period: even with student choice, I'd shut down that option. For those early risers, more power to them. They can hit the books doing homework and seek extra credit projects to work on during their at home "early morning hours."

So Gunn, let's get "Back to the Future" by returning to the progressive 70s era at Gunn when we were far more like a college (then with only 10-12 graders) campus . And when we transitioned to the 9-12 grades (I was a student during that transition too), we were still able to maintain, for the most part, a college preparatory campus. We also had a 12-0 Football team and an era of an undefeated wrestling and tennis team for ten decades. In short, we were both scholars and athletes - I model I always push and have lived.


2 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 9:13 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

To help spark further changes in day-to-day, everyday life at Gunn, which too often feels like a grind...

...visit: www.savethe2008.com

...and consider adding your signature to 282 others on the "Open Letter to the School Board and the Superintendent."


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