CAMPUS: SCHS adopts new bell schedule


Amelia Howell

The schedule includes block period Tuesdays to Fridays.

After a 95-minute first period, a student no longer has to run to their next class, which happens to be their third period. With ten minutes to spare in passing period, they can now take their time getting to the next 95-minute period.

These circumstances, among many others, were part of a cumulative decision made by the faculty at SCHS. According to Vice Principal Tony Lam, the school adopted a new schedule for the 2021-2022 school year based off of the 2020-2021 distance learning schedule. This year, students attend all of their periods on Monday for 50 minutes, with a six-minute passing period, and from Tuesday through Friday, visit alternating blocked periods for 95 minutes each, with ten minutes between. For example, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, periods one, three, five and seven take place. This is accompanied by a delay in the school’s start time, as the first period now begins at 8:45 a.m..

“Every year, the schedule is up for review, and the teachers are set to vote on it. Part of the reason why we went with this schedule is because it was first introduced last year when we were in distance learning, where we had four days of block and then one day where all the classes meet for a shorter amount of time,” Lam said. “Part of last year’s schedule also incorporated student support time, and we wanted to continue with that because it was something that we saw as valuable.”

Social studies teacher Pilar Svendsen said in spring of last school year, teachers were given a choice between two schedules: one in which all classes would meet for 50 minutes per day, five days per week, and one that reflects SCHS’s distance learning block schedule. According to Svendsen, the final schedule was decided by a vote after faculty carefully thought about potential issues.

“Ultimately, there was some concern by many teachers about teaching all of our periods for five days in the initial schedule,” Svendsen said. “Different teachers voted, and in the end, what the consensus was was that teachers preferred the block. That’s how we adopted that.”

Lam said the school’s schedule is part of their SCUSD contract, and in order to adopt a new one, teachers must vote to break the contract. To break contract, 75% of partaking voters, including teachers, staff members and administrators, must vote to enact a contract change.

“That’s why we have to vote every year, because we break contract every year,” Lam said. “In a different context, that sounds like it’s a terrible thing. You’re breaking contract. But we’re breaking contracts so that we can do things that are unique to our school that we see as benefitting our students.”

From Lam’s perspective, benefiting students is a top priority, and the new schedule is his testament to that.

“It’s not what’s beneficial to me. It’s what’s beneficial to the students. What’s most important is what students are getting out of this,” Lam said. “Having the extended period helps students have a better grasp of information, and teachers are able to dive deeper into the subject matter rather than skimming the surface every day.”

Lam believes the benefits to the current schedule outweigh continuing previous schedules in which all periods would occur daily.

“On a Monday, with just 50 minutes, you figure the first 10 to 15 minutes is administrative stuff, such as taking attendance, and then by the time you’re done, the period is almost over. So you really don’t get to go deep into things, allow students the opportunity to ask questions, allow students to practice the information and allow the teacher to support the students,” Lam said.

Lam acknowledged that specific courses will have their disadvantages adapting to longer periods, but the downsides are often met by larger overall benefits in other courses.

“Of course, there are certain subject areas that the block schedule doesn’t lend itself, like World Language or English Language Arts classes, just because there’s only so much information you can put out there. But science and math are great because you get to do labs. You can do a lot within a block period,” Lam said. “With our electives and our art classes, instead of getting the materials out, spending 10 minutes, then trying to clean up, you can’t really do that. But with the block, you actually get so much more done.”

Despite any negative aspects, Lam appreciates the teaching opportunities and new, innovative learning strategies that have taken place since the implementation of the new schedule.

“Teachers are taking advantage of the full 95-minute periods and doing some amazing things, not just lecturing students for 95 minutes but incorporating multiple activities throughout the period to keep student engagement going because it’s really hard to sit and listen to someone talk for 95 minutes,” Lam said. “When you’re incorporating multiple things, not only does it include direct instructions where the teacher is talking but there’s activities and there’s group discussion. There’s all kinds of different things that are going on to reinforce the learning. To me, that’s amazing teaching and learning that’s happening.”

The student support period, a block of time – initially implemented in the 2020-2021 schedule – designed to supply students oppertunities to meet with their teacher individually, was also voted to be kept in this year’s schedule.

“The idea of student support is that we want to offer extra support to students that is built within the day. That idea came from last year when we had the support time at the end of the day,” Lam said. “The idea is that students take advantage of it and have access to any teachers that they want to get some extra support from.”

Svendsen has found the student support period to be helpful not only to her teaching style within her classroom but also to all SCHS students as the support period is flexible and offers opportunities for students to attend to a multitude of possible needs.

“I do think that the intention around student support is beneficial to the Bruin community as a whole. It increases equity because it no longer is forcing students to meet with teachers after school or at lunch but is rather embedded into the schedule for students to have an opportunity to meet with teachers when they need it,” Svendsen said. “I think that is a benefit for students because students can use this time for social emotional needs if they need a break, but they also can utilize this time for the enrichments and interventions that they might need if they’re struggling, or they can use this time for their homework, which I think is helpful for students that are behind.”

For many students, such as sophomore Kendall Yee, student support time does exactly that. Yee believes that support time is beneficial as it gives her time to regenerate and be productive.

“I like support time because it gives you time to catch up on work, or be able to have time to have a better understanding on lessons or homework you don’t understand,” Yee said.

Svendsen aided in the implementation of the student support period in her involvement with the SLT Steering Committee, a committee designed to address school-wide issues. The SLT Steering Committee was founded about five years ago and has since dealt with issues related to suspensions, wellness and social-emotional learning. The social-emotional learning aspect of the SLT’s goals, Svendsen said, has helped involve them in planning the logistics of the support period.

“The SLT took on this role of social-emotional learning and focused on what type of system supports school-wide social-emotional learning that all teachers can start incorporating. The big thing that the SLT has worked on this semester is focusing on how we can advocate for student support,” Svendsen said. “At the beginning of the school year, there was no program or system in place to use during the support time, so the SLT worked with administration and got input from all the teachers and put a survey out. In essence, we adopted a system that could work for now that allows us to figure out how we can make student support effective for students.”

Overall, Svendsen believes that focusing on the room for improvement within the new schedule is in SCHS’s best interest moving forward.

“While the bell schedule is something that I think students, teachers and parents all have an input in, I think that the next steps are to look at is asking if this is best serving our school and our students and our parents,” Svendsen said.

Lam agrees.

“Given the understanding that this is an adjustment year for students and teachers, I’m interested to see how this new schedule is working out in terms of student learning and making improvements,” Lam said.