Students, staff react to mandatory Tutorial

Nisha McNealis and Ria Pai

Students remain in their sixth period Advanced Placement Biology class during the first Tutorial period of the school year on Aug. 14. Compulsory Tutorial has drawn criticism from those who preferred the Flex periods of last year, but many students and staff recognize the need for a more rigid system. “This is the best situation to be able to be able to actually teach us instructional minutes and also to make sure that everyone’s actually working and not off doing something else,” sophomore Jonathon Youngquist said. “This is the best compromise.” Photo: Margaret Li

As Palo Alto High School students settle into a new school year, they are adjusting to a revamped Tutorial system that requires students to remain in one class for the entire period.

Many students were surprised by the sudden shift from Flex to Tutorial and pointed out the downsides of limiting students to one class each Tutorial period.

“Once you pick a class you can’t move to a different class, so if you need help in multiple classes you can only go to one each Tutorial period,” sophomore Jonathon Youngquist said. “For example, if you miss a couple days of school and you need to talk to each individual teacher you can only go to one class in Tutorial, so it’s harder to coordinate and make up lost work.” 

Senior Oscar Liu expressed similar frustration with the changes.

“It [Tutorial] feels really different,” Liu said. “I liked last year’s [Flex] a little more.”

Other students and staff were reticent to evaluate the new system so soon.

“We’ve got to get through the first couple weeks,” history teacher Jack Bungarden said. “It’s a culture shift.” 

Sophomore Ethan Chen agreed that it was too soon to discount the new system.

“I think we should give it some time to see how it’s going to turn out,” Chen said.

Despite the challenges of rolling out a new bell schedule, Principal Adam Paulson stressed that Tutorial will retain much of the flexibility of last year’s system.

“You can still go to see a teacher and ask questions, you can go to the testing center and make up a test, you can go to the weight room and lift weights if you need to, and you can go to Guidance and Wellness,” Paulson said. “You’ll still have that kind of freedom that we like to give you. We just have to check in and stay in one place.”

According to Paulson, the shift from Flex to Tutorial was motivated by the need to add instructional minutes to the bell schedule to meet state requirements. 

“We’re no longer able to do that Flex-type of period,” Paulson said. “It [Tutorial] has to count as instructional minutes now, so we have to use it accordingly.”

Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson was optimistic about the modifications to Tutorial.

“It [Tutorial] is a work in progress,” Berkson said. “So far I like it a lot. Kids are in class. Hopefully they’re getting work done.”

According to Paulson, the administration will collect student and teacher feedback about Tutorial through a survey this week. Until then, Berkson hopes that students will remain open-minded about the changes.

“I think eventually once students start grinding and doing work they’re going to say, ‘this is actually great,'” Berkson said. “If I had Tutorial when I was in high school, I probably would have been a good student.”

Additional reporting by Dylan Zou, Ellie Krugler and Jevan Yu.