Palo Alto school board approves new bell schedule for Gunn High School | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto school board approves new bell schedule for Gunn High School

Rotating block schedule to begin in August

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.

Related content:

Schedule change offers benefits, but implementation feels rushed to some

Gunn committee recommends new bell schedule for next school year

Gunn High School moves closer to new bell schedule

Palo Alto superintendent: No academic classes during zero period

Gunn High School explores scheduling possibilities

Health professionals urge board to consider later school start times

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24 people like this
Posted by Gunn Father
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 27, 2015 at 10:31 am

Amen...this is a great step in the right direction. NOW can we take on the Third Rail of the Teacher's Union ? Can we please implement the 2010 Homework Guidelines ? Again, one step at a time .

4 people like this
Posted by Inattentive
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2015 at 10:40 am

At the last Back to Shool Nite, my son's Spanish teacher said he would like to see classes last mo more than 45-50 minutes. His reasoning was that most kids these days have very little attention span for anything but screen time.

15 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2015 at 11:13 am


Actually, high school is a good time for these kids to learn how to focus over increasingly longer timespans. After all, that's what they will be facing in college as well as the working world.

Life isn't a 45 minute video game.

24 people like this
Posted by Happy gunn mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 27, 2015 at 11:21 am

Thanks to Denise Herrmann and Ken Dauber for proving that we can do better!

21 people like this
Posted by Kirstin S
a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2015 at 11:38 am

Congrats to the committee and the school board for the successful completion of this process. A job well done! This is a huge step in the right direction.

12 people like this
Posted by Great News!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2015 at 11:45 am

I don't know where Superintendent Max McGee was in all this, but I do know that positive decisions for de-stressing our students have occurred since he became our new superintendent. Thanks, Max!

Too bad our former Superintendent Skelly was incapable of making these changes. I guess an Harvard degree doesn't equate with leadership skills.

1 person likes this
Posted by MD from TO
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2015 at 12:03 pm

MD from TO is a registered user.

This schedule is a fake - now the teacher can present a "lesson" and then have the students "work together in groups" on homework or whatever for the rest of the period. Teachers will only "teach" 3 classes every other day and then 2 classes on the day of their "prep" period. "Block scheduling" is just another gimmick put forth by the education "gurus" - has nothing to do with "de-stressing" students.

1 person likes this
Posted by CSC Parent
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 27, 2015 at 12:05 pm

In response to Mr Dauber's request regarding the daily Broadcast class..."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."

The Committee looked into this aspect as part of its research and learned that one of the drivers for Paly's earlier start (8:15 am vs Gunn's 8:25 am broadcast and 8:30 am class start) was to accommodate the mid day Broadcast. While the request has some merit, maintaining a later start for all students, with the corresponding end of school times that support athletic and extra-curricular programs, was considered most beneficial, including morning traffic flow considerations across the Arrastradero corridor.

Having said this, I am confident that the committee and school staff will continue to look at any refinements to the schedule that benefit faculty and students.

2 people like this
Posted by MD from TO
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2015 at 12:14 pm

MD from TO is a registered user.

Important point-the school could still schedule a "zero" period (meeting daily) which would allow students to take an extra class if they desired or
leave after their last class earlier in the day.

14 people like this
Posted by Paly??
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 27, 2015 at 12:15 pm

What about Paly? I'd like to see their start time pushed back to 8:30 (or, better yet, 9) as well. Mornings are a constant struggle for our "night owl" teen.

3 people like this
Posted by Great News!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 27, 2015 at 12:19 pm

No one listens to the broadcasts and many of the TVs don't even work. If they were more compelling, maybe it would grab attention. Most classes are talking during the time so no one can hear it anyway. And if one tries to listen, they appear antisocial. The best way to disseminate news is through email. The broadcasts only benefit the participating students' resumes.

Are the start times of Bowman and Terman staggered for traffic relief?

And yes, MD from TO, the block schedule does de-stress students because they have an extra day to complete homework.

A 75-minute class is superior to Paly's 90-minute class where most teachers give no breaks.

"Our average attention span is now 8 seconds – 1 second less than a goldfish" Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by Ohio
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 27, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Does anyone remember when Gunn Had block periods? My daughter graduated in 1981 and thoroughly enjoyed her years at Gunn and felt the block period was great preparation for college schedules.

Like this comment
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

@MD from TO: Zero period core classes will not longer be available at Gunn this fall - there are a bunch of threads regarding the decision.

@Ohio: I graduated from Paly in 1982 and we had block periods on Tues/Wed but the rest of the days were 7 periods. Oh, those good ole days of having more free time and college admission criteria easier.

12 people like this
Posted by Misha
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2015 at 11:18 am

Much gratitude to Dr. Herrmann for so rapidly making positive changes happen. None of this is easy. Thank you for having the heart and courage to move all the way here and to demonstrate enormous compassion and leadership. Others might wither in the face of all that has happened this year and indeed the past six years are witness to that. Wishing you much rest and rejuvenation over the summer. Please do come back next year!

10 people like this
Posted by Annie
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2015 at 11:25 am

My kids were at Paly when they switched to block scheduling and the drop in stress level at our house was immediate.

Like this comment
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 28, 2015 at 9:49 pm

To support six more stress-lowering measures at Gunn (and Paly), consider joining the 345 signers of our "Open Letter to the School Board and Superintendent"--to be published in the Weekly next Friday.

Our signers include a multitude of Palo Alto parents, grandparents, kids, alums, doctors and lawyers and professors, LMFTs and faith-leaders, artists and a yoga master and the Chief Health Strategist at Google.

To read the letter and consider adding your name, please visit:

Like this comment
Posted by MD from TO
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2015 at 12:16 pm

MD from TO is a registered user.

Mr. Paly Alum-

Interesting that you are commenting on the Gunn schedule. Zero period could still be offered to those students willing to arrive early and take a class that would otherwise not be offered during the school day. "Decisions have been made........" Well, those "decisions" can be modified as this schedule rolls out - per previous comments by the Supt. and Board members. Many schools thruout Calif. on Block Schedules do this with a "zero" period either before or after the regular school day. Google "block schedule" for high schools and become educated.

1 person likes this
Posted by Gunn Alumnus
a resident of Barron Park
on May 30, 2015 at 12:12 am

@Great News, Cable TV service to classrooms at Gunn ceased in 2013--every classroom is served in HD via the web--get your facts straight. During my time at Gunn, only one teacher of mine ever failed to show the broadcast on a regular basis, and my classmates were generally attentive. If you prefer to read news from the school in digest form, that's available to you on the Gunn website--it has been for years. Do you know why you don't know that? It's because most students prefer to receive their news via the announcements, the way they always have. As for the nature of of the broadcast, they are students for goodness' sake--they do their best to serve their community, and they do it voluntarily. I would say that shows character that is certainly more compelling than those who would take potshots at them on the internet...

4 people like this
Posted by Great News!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 30, 2015 at 11:54 pm

@Gunn Alumnus: I am talking about Paly, not Gunn. Perhaps Gunn students care about the broadcasts but it's a different story at Paly. How can you tell me to get my facts straight when you attended Gunn? We all know there are major differences between the two schools, even down to the bell schedules being different. Clearly, you were involved in those Gunn broadcasts to take such offense at my statement that no one cares. Maybe it's also the difference in the atmosphere of the two schools, with Gunn students being so serious about academics and students upset that they no longer can take EIGHT classes due to the loss of zero period.

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