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Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 10, 2017

Changing Amador's schedule

School board to take up proposal Tuesday

by Julia Reis

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

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