Paly releases revised, now-compliant bell schedule

High school was short close to nine hours of instructional time

The school district has released a new bell schedule for Palo Alto High School, which was revised at the eleventh hour this summer to bring it into compliance with a state-mandated instructional minutes requirement.

The revised schedule, which students and staff will see when school starts next week, was reviewed by an external auditor who determined it meets the California Department of Education's minimum for instructional time. The district hired San Diego-based Christy White Associates after a previous auditor mistakenly informed the district that the schedule was compliant.

Paly is required by the state to provide 64,800 minutes of instructional time in the academic year. Last year, the high school was short 535 minutes, or just under nine hours, according to a report from Christy White Associates. Paly was improperly including zero period, a 50-minute, early morning, optional period during which only physical education is now offered, in its minutes count.

The new auditor worked directly with Paly Principal Adam Paulson, as well as Gunn High School Principal Kathie Laurence, this summer "to ensure that instructional time was properly calculated, without exceptions."

Paly's schedule no longer has some of the features that were championed by the committee that developed it over many months last year, chiefly later start times and greater flexibility for students and staff. Paly had planned to move its start time from 8:15 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 10:05 a.m. on alternating days, which aligns with an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that no secondary schools start earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Under the revised schedule, school will start daily at 8:20 a.m. A block schedule with 90-minute periods will rotate on "odd" and "even" days. There is a 45-minute tutorial period at the end of even days. In consultation with the state Department of Education, the auditor determined that tutorial, as a required period during which students are under certificated staff supervision, counts as instructional time regardless of when it is scheduled during the day. (In the committee's originally proposed schedule, it was moved into the middle of the school day, as is practice at Gunn.)

The state is set to take up the "broader topic" of tutorial at a future attendance meeting, the auditor report states.

Christy White Associates determined that InFocus, a 10-minute period for the student-produced news broadcast, and blended learning count as instructional time given students are under the direct supervision of certificated staff.

The auditor notes that the firm was not asked to render an opinion on the high school's instructional time, writing without further detail that "had we performed additional procedures, other matters might have come to our attention that would have been reported to you."

Under the new schedule, there is still no seven-period day, which was eliminated in response to student and parent complaints about the excessive work and stress it caused.

Staff will be given time to collaborate during a 45-minute slot at the end of even days.

Paly parent Kathy Jordan, who is running for a seat on the Board of Education this fall, has requested the school board formally review the new schedule at a meeting. She questions the validity of counting tutorial as instructional time, "given many students decide to miss the period and either come to school late or go home early," as well as InFocus, during which students aren't receiving direct academic instruction from teachers.

"As a parent and an advocate, I think it's the school board's responsibility to weigh in," she wrote in an email on Monday to the board and new Superintendent Don Austin. Board President Ken Dauber replied that he, Austin and Vice President Jennifer DiBrienza, who together make up the board's agenda-setting committee, would discuss her request.

Christy White Associates also found Gunn's bell schedule to be compliant for this year, with 929 minutes in excess of the state minimum.

Gunn discovered last spring that its schedule was 23 hours short of the state requirement. The shortage was due to numerous special schedules, such as for standardized testing or finals, and a lack of accountability to the impact of those schedules on overall minutes, according to then-principal Denise Herrmann.


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9 people like this
Posted by native to the bay
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2018 at 11:09 am

Not sure why the later start times were scrapped other than because of a one time short fall of 9 total hours during one year. Are the later start times now off the table??? This article does not state what or if Paly is going to restructure the bell schedule for later start times so that our children can remain sane and safe in my opinion, in a over managed and age inappropriate academic climate.

10 people like this
Posted by native to the bay
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2018 at 11:19 am

I find it grossly irresponsible that a "committee of champions" and our school community can make such life changing bell schedules that affect the health and well being of our Paly student body - and in the next nano-second (two days before schools commences) to only totally reverse course and take back everything but 5 minutes. Very sad for our children's academic schedule and daily school lives. Who are making such bold and decisive decisions around anyway?

17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2018 at 11:21 am

It is about time that American schools faced the reality that they have a shorter academic day as well as a shorter academic day than their counterparts in the rest of the world. The over emphasis on sports teams is also worrying. Nothing against sport and exercise, but the emphasis on academic education rather than sports scholarships is something unique to America and unheard of in most western countries.

14 people like this
Posted by Missing minutes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2018 at 1:36 pm

Here's Paly's recent record for mandated minimum instructional minutes:
2017-18 - deficient - at least 535 minutes short, according to this article: Web Link
2016-17 - deficient - 37 hours - according to Ms. Diorio in this article (Gunn was short too): Web Link
2014-15 - deficient - according to this article: Web Link

Why won't PAUSD provide the instructional minutes that the law mandates?

2 people like this
Posted by Ok...
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2018 at 3:25 pm

Wonder if it’s a cultural problem where sleep little, work long, work hard. (Sigh emoji)
I’m all for siestas and shorter work days!
Wish it could be a federal mandate that it wasn’t an 8-hour day for the kids and adults ;)

6 people like this
Posted by Clarification?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 10, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Regarding school board candidate, Kathy Jordan's comments in which she "questions the validity of counting tutorial as instructional time", is she suggesting that classes should be longer--From 90 to 95 minutes to recapture those minutes being used during Tutorial? The article suggests the auditor has stated the updated schedule is in compliance, so she doesn't agree with the auditor? Ms. Jordan has participated in these threads before, so perhaps a clarification could be provided?

12 people like this
Posted by Green Acres parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 10, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Green Acres parent is a registered user.

I'm disappointed that the committee responsible for coming up with the new schedule failed to satisfy all the legal requirements imposed by the state. The new schedule was supposedly vetted by experts, but I'd be willing to bet that it, too, will eventually be found to not satisfy all the legal requirements. Hopefully next year we can have a schedule that provides sufficient instructional minutes without any "creative accounting", as well as a later start time.

11 people like this
Posted by Eliminate Bells Altogether
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2018 at 3:58 pm

To better prepare our children for college, shouldn't the archaic HS bell system be eliminated?

Time management skills (on the part of the teacher) would be requisite.

Bells are OK for children in elementary school.

16 people like this
Posted by Kathy Jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Kathy Jordan is a registered user.

The CDE is the one that makes the rules.

The CDE frowns upon scheduling non-instructional study hall type periods (tutorial) at the beginning or at the end of the day for compliance reasons. Counting these non instructional minutes as minimum instructional minutes requires compulsory attendance throughout the period, and the students must be under the immediate control and supervision of certificated personnel throughout the whole period (CDE Fiscal Management Advisory 8606). Paly has not adhered to these attendance practices for tutorial in the past, which is why there would be a question going forward about the validity of counting these minutes as minimum instructional minutes, if Paly continues to utilize the same attendance practices for tutorial as it has in the past.

Gunn expressly placed tutorial (they call it flex I believe) in the middle of the school day in its new 2017-18 bell schedule to be able to count non instructional tutorial/flex minutes as minimum instructional minutes, as Gunn had been deficient in instructional minutes in 2016-17.

I'd simply like to see our students receive the mandated minimum instructional minutes they're entitled to under the law.

Hope that clarifies things.

1 person likes this
Posted by Clarification?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 10, 2018 at 11:04 pm

@Kathy:. Yes, that does clarify. The concern is not that Tutorial is inherently out if compliance but the timing of Tutorial is concerning.

6 people like this
Posted by Leanimusso
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 11, 2018 at 8:20 am

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 11, 2018 at 9:25 am

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 11, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Doesn't homework count as learning time? If not, what's it for? Or are instructional time and learning time not the same thing?

4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2018 at 1:18 pm

It’s simple: the most basic would be to have Paly on the same schedule as Gunn.
Quit ultra-early doctoring for extra credits/ quit unnecessary non-scheduled time/study hall/tutorial, whatever you want to call it; bring the school immediately into line with the law and to the standard (high, I hope); where you want this school to stand.
Gunn had a schedule in 1970’s that I recommend be considered for Paly. (I don’t know if Gunn still operates A and B days...)
Require electronics to be turned off and put away during instructional time.
We need more solid instruction time like Europe and a longer school year would also be wise.

3 people like this
Posted by GraceBrown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2018 at 5:14 pm

GraceBrown is a registered user.

In a student centered organization, not a family, staff, or special interests one, it seems to make more sense to go with the research-based American Academy of Pediatricians recommendations over outdated CDE legislation or anecdotal opinions.

The bell schedule ought to focus on the needs of adolescents, rather than the other way around.

Let's work together to impress upon our state representatives to make the needed legislative changes in order to support what we all know is best for teens.To that end, I'd be interested in hearing from those running for the PAUSD school board about their ideas working collaboratively with Jerry Hill and Marc Berman.

With respect,


4 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2018 at 8:16 pm

The CDE doesn't prevent a school from starting at whatever time they like. It is just a matter of how many hours you want in the day and how many are devoted to instruction. If they put instruction first it won't be hard.

5 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2018 at 8:36 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

A later start time has been shown to be beneficial to teen students. However, I don't think that should mean that students are shortchanged in the classroom. I would think that fewer instructional minutes could actually be more stressful than following the state minimum. If a teacher has X amount of material to cover in Y days, to have to cover it in Y - Z days would cause that teacher to rush through some material and/or not be able to give students enough time to grasp difficult concepts, review or edit their work. Now they're forced to learn the material in a shorter time span. That doesn't seem like it would reduce the stress.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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