School board debating changes to Amador Valley High bell schedule

Proposal would add 'access' advisory period for students twice a week

Following an initial discussion at its meeting last week, the Pleasanton school board is set for final consideration of a proposal next Tuesday to implement a new bell schedule at Amador Valley High School next school year.

If approved by the board, the school would pilot an "access" period for the 2017-18 school year, setting aside 40 minutes twice a week for an advisory time with an assigned teacher -- a move designed to target student stress and meet other student needs, according to school staff.

Under the proposal, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays would remain traditional school days with students having all six regular periods, but the bell schedule on Wednesdays and Thursdays would shift to a modified block schedule in which students would have the access period and one half of their classes each day.

The pilot program would take place only at Amador Valley, with no changes proposed to the bell schedule for Foothill High School.

Amador Valley has been exploring the addition of an advisory period since 2012 in response to several identified student needs, in particular the need to reduce stress, staff told the school board during a presentation Feb. 28. They cited 2016 survey data showing 6% of freshmen and 22% of juniors reported missing school due to lack of sleep, and 20% of juniors felt they are behind in classes.

"Clearly our students are making huge sacrifices in their personal well-being in order to make the grade," Amador Valley counselor Nicole West said.

In the fall, school administrators and teachers formed an advisory team that researched the access period concept by visiting Bay Area schools that adopted alternative bell schedules in response to student mental health concerns. All schools had a support period embedded within the school day where students could do things like review for a test or seek help for stress.

The school also surveyed students, parents and staff about the idea and found the majority of each group supported it.

"Overwhelmingly, this access period is an idea supported by the community and staff," said science teacher Amy Turner-Bull, adding many teachers are looking forward to having more time for things like labs and essay writing with longer class periods on block days.

The block schedule would also reduce stress, staff said, because two nights a week students would only have to prepare for three classes the next day.

Under the proposed schedule, class periods on Wednesdays and Thursdays would last about 90 minutes, with the access period scheduled from 10:26 to 11:06 a.m. Students would have first, third and fifth periods on Wednesdays and second, fourth and sixth periods on Thursdays.

Like Wednesdays currently, both block days would have "late start" components in which most students would start class at 8:50 a.m. and end the day at 3:01 p.m.

First period on regular schedule days would start a minute earlier than now at 8 a.m. with the school day ending at 3:11 p.m., and most class periods lengthened from 57 to 59 minutes.

The early "A" period would run from 7-7:55 a.m. on regular days and on Thursdays from 7-8:45 a.m., with no session Wednesdays. Students would have brunch and lunch breaks all five days.

If approved by the board next Tuesday (March 14), Amador Valley students next year would be assigned to a specific teacher who would become their "adviser" for the period, receiving support based on their individual needs. The schedule change would be implemented on a pilot basis.

At last week's meeting, board vice president Mark Miller advocated that both Amador and Foothill pilot the access period next school year, while in response president Joan Laursen said she supported Amador trying it out first.

"To mandate it from the board or staff level would not be as successful as having staff observe and come to their conclusions," Laursen said.

Next Tuesday's regular school board meeting will get underway at 7 p.m. in the district office boardroom at 4665 Bernal Ave.


54 people like this
Posted by PUSD-> Oakland Unified?....Outlawed Bogus / Sham classes
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:41 am

The practice of assigning students to contentless "classes" like the School Board is trying to do, i.e., classes with no educational value --- a "free period" or "access period," is not new, but it is against the law. This practice is certainly not new in Oakland Unified. In fact, there was just a lawsuit and bill signed by Jerry Brown to stop the practice, but of course, your un-informed School Board probably doesn't know about it or if they know about it, I'll bet they don't care. Like they cut instructional minutes at the K-5 level several years ago with Staggered Reading, now they aim to chop away at instructional minutes at the High School level.

Here is the lawsuit and description of AB 1012 signed by Jerry Brown Web Link

By putting classes with no educational value and having days where half the classes are taught, what they are doing is working as best as they can to have Pleasanton schools in a race to the bottom. After all, in their mind, all Alameda County schools should be equally horrendous, so why not start by slashing away at instructional time at Amador Valley High School?

So the kids will have half their classes on some days and sit doing absolutely nothing for two periods a week? Another idiotic move by the School Board, and you will be they will vote Yes on it. They don't have the strength and will power to vote "No" against a staff recommendation.

8 people like this
Posted by Alva
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Mar 8, 2017 at 12:04 pm

I have a student who will be a sophomore next year and seems to be very comfortable
with his schedule. One of his classes is, Academic Skills Class so every day he has
an opportunity to receive support in any of his subjects. He usually takes care of his home work during this time. He said that he would rather have the current schedule because he can keep better track of of his classes.

8 people like this
Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 3:48 pm

To clarify, the two access periods are 40 minutes each (one Wednesday, one Thursday), while other class sessions on those days are 90 minutes each.

Students will have a variety of ways to use that time to deepen their learning, get support from teachers when needed, and make progress on assignments. Making these support periods a part of the weekly schedule allows teachers and students to plan ahead for needs such as making up a test or quiz missed due to absence.

Here's the FAQ on the proposal: Web Link

9 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:10 pm

I think it is wonderful that Amador has addresses a need of their student population, garnered feedback, communicated clearly with their parent population, and has a proposed solution. My son is a student at Foothill. Why isn't Foothill HS also considering this??? Once again, Foothill administration is clueless, doing nothing. It's like FHS and AVHS are separate countries. This should be a district wide proposal, not just at Amador. Same issues at both schools.

41 people like this
Posted by Study hall?
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:16 pm

What this sounds like is a school wide break/recess from teaching from 10:26 - 11:06 AM for two days a week (Wednesday/Thursday) where 90% or more of the unionized teachers will not be actually performing real teaching duties, but be idle. Also, it sounds like for two days a week, teachers will only have to prepare to teach half of their classes.

This sounds like a dressed up glorified study hall to me. And it sounds like the district cannot staff the actual sections with qualified teachers because of all of the resignations.

Teachers will be teaching 80 minutes less per week which means each teacher will be teaching 2,880 minutes less per school year.

And they expect to be paid the same salary teaching 48 hours less teaching per employee ?

So will the teachers get their pay reduced by the amount of minutes that they won't be teaching ?

What do study hall monitors normally get paid ?

8 people like this
Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Teachers will each be responsible for approximately 25 students during ACCESS period, and will provide review of concepts when needed, provide advice and guidance to students, help them make connections with counselors when appropriate, etc.

The schedule was put together after visiting several other high performing schools that have similar schedules in place.

The initiative for this change came from Amador teachers and staff, but it is quite possible that Foothill will follow suit if effectiveness is shown.

15 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Connectedness--students having at least one adult on campus to connect to--is being done at top high schools as part of reducing student stress. It has been very effective at Paly and is being phased in at Gunn. Students overwhelmingly have supported the program. If I had a complaint, it would be that there should be 4 or five days of block scheduling and one day of advisory each week. The positives of having only three quizzes or tests or homework each night and longer classes for deeper dives into learning serve students well. It's really teachers who will need time to look differently at content. Our children thrived on block schedules when we lived in Texas. That's 20 years ago. It's unfortunate California has been slow to move to this approach to learning.

37 people like this
Posted by Dumb Dumb Dumb
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 9, 2017 at 6:54 am

Why have any classes at all?! This idiotic "program" is yet one more way to "dumb down" our students! Pathetic!

14 people like this
Posted by Thinker
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Mar 11, 2017 at 8:11 am

A Ideas to Consider:

The classes do not have a grade... so accountability by the teacher will be difficult. Most days, there is no time-sensitive information to disseminate, or the kids aren't interested so teens on cell-phones is what you will have...remember the teachers have ne true accountability. Teachers will stop rolling through the video or power-points because nobody is listening.

Almost every teaching practice currently accepted involves establishing routines, though in a rally schedule, finals schedule, regular bell and advisory days and your going to have a difficult time establishing regular routines. Some weeks you may have three or four different bell schedules. Learning Disabilities will become exaggerated as the added stress of figuring where they need to be plays out.

In a vacuum, having a mentor sounds wonderful, but in most cases the assigned teacher will have no relationship with the students. The anticipated mentor/student relationship will be hard to develop when there is no shared adversity or experiences.

Parents should expect increased screen time during advisory including texts home and to friends etc.

This will run its course and the philosophy won't meet the reality and the parents will be up in arms. Teachers will feel helpless without the ability to hold students accountable and admin will be telling the teachers to advise, when they would rather teach, without dedicating any time to the how part. Parents will be livid as the time is wasted...and everyone would rather be learning.


While there is information to pass along it can be done within a specific class with students and teacher already in place, no need for an extra passing period.

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

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