Although Palo Alto High School’s bell schedule for the 2017-18 school year will look familiar, students will see additional InFocus time and an added Flex period on Thursday, according to Principal Kim Diorio.
Paly is currently under the 54,000 instructional minutes per year mandated by the state of California. To combat this issue, the Bell Schedule Review Committee (BSRC) recommended a schedule that includes two Flex periods — one on Tuesday and one on Thursday — and an additional 20 minutes of “InFocus” per week.
Students who do not have Advisory on Thursdays will be expected to remain on campus until dismissal at 2:30 p.m. and attendance will be taken for both Flex days, Diorio said in a Schoology update Monday afternoon. InFocus, the school’s broadcast journalism show, will also be extended to 10 minutes from Tuesday through Thursday and will be shown at the end of 3rd and 4th periods rather than the beginning of class. While C-days will remain a part of the new schedule, discussions will continue to develop future initiatives to combat what some students see as an overwhelming number of classes on C-days, according to the detailed addendum.
BSRC member junior David Foster says he is confident the new schedule will deliver well on the school’s immediate needs.
“I do believe that, given the last minute nature we learned of this minutes issue, and the opinions given by stakeholders in the community, this was about the best that could be done,” Foster said. “People wanted minimal change. We agreed as a committee that it was not wise to rush into any drastic changes without proper research.”
Junior Ruth Itzkowitz agrees that keeping C-days is a good recommendation, though she says her opinion may not be representative of the wider student body.
“When I took the survey, I went for minimal changes,” Itzkowitz said. “I like how we have it now and C-days don’t bother me. … I know a lot of people really did want to see the C-days changed but I also know a lot of those people didn’t like the other changes so I think a lot of kids have kind of settled.”
Paly will also be placing flat screen TVs in the gym, locker rooms, library and Tower Building to encourage viewership of InFocus and promote a closer campus community by airing more community-based content, according to the InFocus Vision Statement posted by Diorio.
Foster says he is optimistic that InFocus will use its airtime to enhance the viewing experience.
“The InFocus team has promised to improve technology for next year and use the great opportunity that the additional 20 minutes per week that this interim schedule provides for well,” Foster said.
Some students, including junior Matthew Rowe, are wary of the changes to InFocus.
“I think that it’s pointless to have InFocus at the end of the period, because everyone’s been having it at the beginning and so we might as well keep it the same,” Rowe said. “Also, we get our information in five minutes so there’s really no need to make it 10 minutes.”
Though freshman Kayla Brand is optimistic about the Flex aspect of the new bell schedule, she says she would like to see a shift in InFocus’ content.
“I like the idea of having Flex on Thursdays because I really value Flex time,” Brand said, “I’m a little disappointed about the extended day. … If it [the extra time in the school day] is going to InFocus it would be nice if InFocus was focused a little more on school and less on sports.”
The 2017-18 bell schedule is only an interim schedule designed to address the urgent issue of insufficient instructional minutes. Starting in fall, the BSRC will investigate other facets of the schedule, such as later start times, and review the efficiency of InFocus and Flex. According to Foster, he plans to incorporate even more student input into the final iteration of the bell schedule.
“People had some great ideas that I want to keep flowing,” Foster said. “We started one of our meetings by writing down what we wanted to achieve through the committee. In all the time that has passed, my goal has not changed. I wrote, ‘I want to set a plan in action to have a schedule for Paly that students, teachers, admin, classifieds, and parents can be happy about and proud of.’”