Gunn High School will officially shift to a 75-minute rotating block schedule in the next school year after receiving the unanimous stamp of approval from the school board Tuesday night.
Gunn's current schedule, with five or six classes meeting in 58-minute periods each day, came into focus this year as a fixable source of student stress. After three short months of work, a committee of teachers, students, parents and administrators came to the school board earlier this month with a recommendation that Gunn move to the 75-minute block model in August.
Under the new schedule, each class will meet three times per week, with the majority lasting 75 minutes. There will also be three 70- and three 80-minute blocks, which allow more time for innovative teaching strategies like hybrid classes or project-based learning.
This addresses top student stressors like test stacking, the number of classes per day, frequent transitions between classes and "the relentless flow of overnight and weekend homework assignments," according to a report from the school's Creative Scheduling Committee.
There is also a new, weekly time built into the schedule for teacher collaboration. And tutorial, a now optional time once a week for students to do things like seek extra help from teachers, complete makeup work or collaborate with other students, will be expanded to two periods twice a week. One period, scheduled on Tuesday mornings instead of at the end of the day, will be treated like a required class. It can also be used as dedicated time for social-emotional curriculum, freshman orientation (Titan 101) and grade-level counselor meetings, the committee said.
The second tutorial slot would be the last period of the day on Thursday afternoons. Tutorial is currently almost an hour-long period at the end of the day on Tuesdays and is underutilized by students, the committee said in its report.
Board member Ken Dauber called the new schedule a great example of "the importance of focusing effort on changes that address the day-to-day life of students at school."
Other board members stressed the importance of providing adequate support and training to teachers throughout an expedited process of rewriting their curriculum to fit the new schedule.
Gunn Principal Denise Herrmann said she and the district are still working out the professional development plan, but it will begin as soon as next week with an entire day dedicated to learning about schedule changes and will continue over the summer and into the new school year.
One community member who spoke to the school board urged the district to work with the city to mitigate any traffic impacts that might arise from the loss of some classes during zero period, an early-morning period that about 300 students currently attend at 7:20 a.m.
"I do want to encourage ... any changes that we make that we try to get on the front end with the city on traffic," board President Melissa Baten Caswell told Herrmann. "It doesn't seem like a big deal until all the cars are piled up on the road trying to get in, and it doesn't seem like a big deal until there's an accident or students are having a hard time getting in on bicycles."
The regular school day will still begin at 8:30 a.m., though physical education will still be offered during zero period. Students in Titan Broadcast News also arrive early to prepare a live news broadcast that airs daily at 8:25 a.m.
Board member Ken Dauber also encouraged Herrmann to consider shifting this class to a later time, noting that Palo Alto High School's live broadcast runs at the beginning of third period, with students preparing during first or second period.