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Paly to move to later start times

Original post made on May 4, 2018

Palo Alto High School students will start classes later, at 8:30 a.m. and 10:05 a.m. on alternating days, under a new bell schedule next year to support student well-being.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 4, 2018, 6:49 AM

Comments (36)

Posted by class of '03
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 11:10 am

Part of me wishes we had this schedule 20 years ago while I was at PALY.

Then again, hour-long classes and having almost every class every day was kind of fun too. We used to get out early on W and Th, but I'd much rather sleep in and go to school late.


Posted by Really
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 4, 2018 at 11:53 am

This sounds seriously asinine:

*Alternating start times inviting different morning routines for teens? That's like flying them between time zones everyday and creating self-defeating jet-lag.

*Later dismissal penalizes athletes and commuters.

*Morning workouts are nice and all, but 7:25 PE start times run counter to trying to encourage sleep.

*Increase costs and complexity of VTP bus service.

What's not to love about this!

There has got to be a better solution to the issue of sleep/early bells. Aren't there thousands of other high schools in the country who have already figured out a well balanced and thought through schedule that Paly can copy? I went to high school 30 years ago and they had this already figured out and we didn't have the sleep problems or these convoluted "solutions."

Start everyday at the same time at 8:30 and offer early dismissal once or twice a week so kids have more after school on campus flex time to study, socialize, do extracurriculars like sports etc. and teachers who commute can get home early once or twice to see their families. Seriously, get the kids on campus and have them stay to contribute to school community vs sleep in a couple times a week, throw off their schedules and sit at home alone unsupervised on their devices. Its a nice thought but not realistic to have them self motivate to get there "early" on late days, especially the ones who are struggling socially and emotionally in the first place that this new schedule is trying to reach and supposedly help.

There is so much not to like about this.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2018 at 12:29 pm

What will this do to the Churchill/Alma must turn left. Will it mean different times on different days? Will PAPD ticket those that ignore sign?

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

PAPD rarely enforces that sign. They're out there twice a school year. If guess more than 59% of the cycles have at least one car violating the restriction.

On the bright side, at 10am students on bikes won't be competing with commuters outside of school commuters.

Posted by Hal Plotkin
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 2:42 pm

Hal Plotkin is a registered user.

Kudos to the Paly leadership, bell schedule committee members and our school board. I hope one day soon the 10:05AM start time can be extended to the entire week, consistent with the research on circadian rhythm in adolescence. But this is a great start. Well done!

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2018 at 4:16 pm

I think 8AM start of school day is fine for high schoolers. Just don’t have any “period zero” earlier. Oh, and limit late night social media. Moving to 10AM start is not consistent with the real world, folks.

Posted by Cheryl
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2018 at 4:22 pm


Did you even read the article? If a student prefers a constant schedule, then they can arrive at school everyday at 8:30 even if their first class starts at a different time. Other students could view the alternating schedule as a look into college class scheduleing where class start times depend on the day of the week. In order to stay consistent with Gunn, I’m sure the Tinsley VTP busses will arrive at Paly for the 8:30 start time. Unfortunately those students will not have the late start option but they can take advantage of the extra time to do work in the library.

Posted by Evan Baldonado
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2018 at 7:30 pm

I am a junior at Paly and I lead the Jordan Debate club/team which meets Thursdays. The consistent, later dismissal times will make it impossible for myself (and for others who are in charge of other activities such as SciOly) to arrive in time to host them right after school.

Posted by cut to the quick
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 5, 2018 at 7:42 am

Bottom line is that this new bell schedule shifts where students spend their time at Paly away from academic classes and away from their teachers to Flex and SEL in order to provide its "major benefit" which is giving teachers more time to meet with each other without students and without having to put in a longer day.

Posted by Safety 1st
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 5, 2018 at 8:46 am

An open invitation to students to come to Paly for 90 more minutes of unsupervised time will make Paly's problems with vaping in the bathrooms etc even worse.

Maybe before last year's Federal government and independent investigation reports came out Ken Dauber and Jennifer DiBrienza's trust in Paly site leadership, while misplaced, was understandable.

But in light of those scathing reports Dauber and DiBrienza's continued embrace of the "we trust site leadership" mindset, without knowing who will be leading Paly next year and without question, is foolish.

Someone might want to remind them that student safety is core to their "board's oversight" responsibilities.

Posted by less for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2018 at 10:35 am

Changes next year compared to this year

Students will have 2.5 fewer hours of class/week.

Teachers will have maybe 5 minutes more/week of collaboration time so that's not a "major benefit."

Teachers' "major benefit" is that their work hours will be cut by 1 hour/week and, when they are on campus, they get an extra 1.25 hours/week free to do something other than teaching a class.

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on May 5, 2018 at 11:22 pm

why can't we have some consistency between the 2 high schools at a fundamental level like school hours? This makes no sense at all.

Posted by Dave
a resident of College Terrace
on May 6, 2018 at 2:22 am

Watch this clip about students and later schedules related to sleep:

go to ~1:14

Web Link

Posted by More sleep
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2018 at 9:15 am

More sleep is a registered user.

I wish the answer could just be to have kids go to bed earlier. That's what we did when I was a kid, and it seemed to work fine. I'm glad this isn't at Gunn (yet). We already have that SELF program to waste time, couldn't deal with this as well...

Posted by Autonomy
a resident of Green Acres
on May 6, 2018 at 9:50 am

I think it is a positive step to move toward more flexibility. My caveat would be that an attempt to do this schoolwide may be miplaced. Some students enjoy and benefit from the structure of the traditional schedule and rotating subjects and others will never achieve their potential having the constant external direction and inability to control their own time and choose depth in their work. This solution tries to strike a balance but may be an optimal solution for no one.

I wish the district would consider its own brand of independent study program that serves the self-directed learners who need less structure while maintaining a traditional schedule for those who benefit from more. Until the debate about how much autonmy is essential in a 21st century public education is decided, we could be serving those who need it now, with very little investment.

That said, starting after 8:30 is a good idea.

Posted by Momof3
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 6, 2018 at 11:56 am

If you read the 2015 letter from the physicians, it seems clear that starting at 8:30 or later is the health recommendation.

Logistics can be worked out. For example, to minimize conflicts, Paly could try to schedule younger athletes (freshman and sophomores) into PE in one of the last period of the day and to schedule older athletes (juniors and seniors) into free periods at the end of the day. In addition coaches and clubs (who work with Jordan or other programs) need to proactively get ahead of this with scheduling. Perhaps Jordan students will need to take the shuttle or bike to Paly (instead of the Paly coaches coming to Jordan) or perhaps a Jordan teacher can step into the void in some way.

I believe the committee (which was in place for over one year) was open for comments, and the members evaluated many schedules. Perhaps we could all try to make this work and problem solve together in the spirit of community we are trying to teach our children.

Posted by OldTeacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 6, 2018 at 2:18 pm

Thank you, Momof3, for your comments. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Let’s work together and try to help our students. I’m all for positive vibes, problem-solving and the spirit of cooperation. Kudos for your upbeat message and can-do spirit!

Posted by Teacher
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2018 at 11:01 am

Here's the real rub:

In California, High Schools must have at least 64,800 instructional minutes per year. (See Web Link

There are some rule for what counts as instructional minutes:
-To count, attendance must be taken (so Flex period doesn't count).
-A significant number of kids must have class at that time (Zero period doesn't count).
-You can count "reasonable" (generally defined as 5 minutes) passing periods.

So, White days have 370 instructional minutes, while Green days have 290. Since the schedule is just going to alternate, there will be 660 minutes every two days. There are 180 school days, so without taking into account minimum days and special schedules (which would reduce the yearly instructional minutes further), that would give Paly 59,400 yearly instructional minutes, an even 90 hours short of the requirements. That would be almost 17 extra days of school under the new schedule. Even if they add in a "Passing period" after lunch and brunch (which they probably couldn't legally do for the green day since there's not a required attendance period before that), that would fall short of the requirement by 60 hours.

If/when the state audits instructional minutes, that'll be a fun couple of weeks in the summer...

Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on May 7, 2018 at 11:41 am

kids is a registered user.

I was wondering about the instructional minutes too. I am also wondering how this will affect the achievement gap with much less teacher contact time. Kids in sports will miss 6th and 7th period and planning ahead will be very difficult for them. Maybe it will be better so spread the game day absences over two classes? Doing a sport will put kids home later and up later with this schedule. Maybe they can put some afterschool activities in that huge morning flex and kids can use that time for their special interests. every schedule will have its own issues. Just find ways to make it best for your own kids.

Posted by Yes, Really
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 7, 2018 at 12:26 pm


Yes, I did read the article.

But that doesn't change the reality that depressed kids don't get themselves to school early.

I'm all for extra sleep and feel it would be helpful, but its wishful thinking to expect the kids who might be socially and emotionally challenged, who this really is trying to reach, to self-motivate, especially when completely different routines are introduced every other day. Socially and emotionally challenged kids don't want to get out of bed in the first place. The danger of a schedule likes this is it further isolates them from the motivated engaged kids that do show up "early" as you suggest. And then when you require them to be there at 8:30 every other day you are disrupting the very sleep patterns a "late" schedule is trying to help.

As far as bus schedule goes you are introducing a serious equity issue if you think its acceptable not to provide the same schedule/opportunity to Tinsley VTP students as any other student in Palo Alto.

So yes, there has got to be a better way. Really.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 7, 2018 at 6:28 pm

A quick look at circadian rhythm research tells us that consistency matters. Having two different start times on alternate days is ridiculous.

I find the current complaints about sleep deprivation interesting. Yes, there are students who stay up too late studying and don't get enough sleep, which makes it difficult to wake up early and be alert by the time the bell rings. And yes, sleep patterns during this stage can be different than those of adults. However, if you ask your kids how long they stay up texting, surfing the net, or other activities that rob them of sleep each night, I'm guessing that you will recognize the real culprit.

Adolescents have been rising early for school for a long, long time and still managed to be quite productive in school. Am not sure that over-accommodation helps kids one of the most important skills they will need to succeed -- problem solving and adapting to reasonable expectations.

Posted by Momof3
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 7, 2018 at 11:01 pm

Paly and Stanford have sponsored many adolescent health programs. The data on later start times is clear. It's better for adolescents. They are not mini adults.

The quote below reminds me of what I heard from a Stanford expert at the Paly talk:

"Despite worries that later start times simply give teens an excuse to stay up even later, studies show that teenagers get more sleep when their schools start later, said Kyla Wahlstrom, director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Part of the reason is biological. Around puberty, the body's circadian rhythm shifts so that the brain doesn't get signals to sleep until 11 or 11:15 p.m. It doesn't matter how tired a kid is or what time he got up that morning."

see Web Link and Web Link

See Web Link for the issues reviewed by the committee if you want more detail on what was considered.

Posted by Paly Experience
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 8, 2018 at 12:28 am

Please do NOT err and spell Paly with all capital letters. It's not an acronym, it's a nickname.

This is outstanding. Menlo-Atherton starts at 9:30 on some days. Some of you just don't get it. An abundance of research indicates that teens bodies are on a different cycle than adults and young children. Their bodies aren't tired until later so they can't fall asleep earlier. In addition, 20-30 years ago, college admissions weren't as they are today. Even PAUSD wasn't as rigorous as it is today. Quit living in the past, it's rough out there for college admissions. I have children who ignore social media and they were still sleep-deprived due to the workload at Paly.

Only those who have experienced children in PAUSD high schools can understand what it's like to witness sleep deprivation and feel like they are torturing their children by waking them up when they oversleep. I do not approve of Snowflake parenting, but this late bell schedule was necessary.

Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2018 at 8:13 am

kids is a registered user.

I think everything is manageable but my brain will have trouble remembering which day is one or two and I hoping for a printed schedule with all the one and two days posted.

Posted by Paly Experience
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 8, 2018 at 8:55 am

@kids (who is an adult): Currently, three days per week are different in the Paly schedule and kids had no problem getting used to it. And with more sleep, they with think clearly.

Posted by Seelam Prabhakar Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 8, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Seelam Prabhakar Reddy is a registered user.

Great news.
Teenagers need sufficient sleep.

Thank you PAUSD.


Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2018 at 4:30 pm

kids is a registered user.

@ palyexperience

I understood that there will be day one and then day two and they will not be attached to even or odd days but will string along in that order which is probably good, because with the holidays and block schedules sometimes classes would only meet once a week and that can be difficult for everyone. I still am too old to keep track and I know the students will have no problems. I just hope they schedule is labeled with few exceptions. Change is fun.

Posted by Paly Experience
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 8, 2018 at 5:11 pm

@kids: It's more than just the Paly bell schedule that is confusing :D There are exceptions to the schedule frequently, it's a moving target with state exams and many, many other exceptions.

Back in the day, it was only Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. However, the PAUSD schedule does have at least one day off per month for the students (Staff Development or Teacher Work Day) and that is absolutely wonderful for them.

Posted by Paly Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 9, 2018 at 1:50 pm


I have followed the scheduling process and I am very excited for next year. The committee spent a lot of time reaching out to students and teachers. It turns out Zero period does count as instructional minutes, they spoke with the auditor! So the schedule does have a very slight surplus of minutes. I just want to clarify this as a member of the Paly community.

Posted by teacher 2
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Paly Student,

If PAUSD's auditor told someone that an optional zero period counts as everyone's instructional minutes then the school needs to hire a new auditor.

CDE Fiscal Management Advisory 86-06:

"each student [must be] guaranteed the right to sign up for as many classes as are necessary to meet the annual instructional minutes requirement"

"offering courses for only ...a portion of the population ... would not be acceptable."

Lots of other schools have figured this out like San Juan High in Southern CA: "there are 14 zero periods offered on campus...they do not count for the schools’ instructional minutes" Web Link

Posted by Need More Information
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 9, 2018 at 4:14 pm

How many different classes are offered during zero period? Can all the students sign up for classes during that time? I was under the impression that the School Board got rid of zero period classes except for PE? Did something change?

Posted by paly
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 9, 2018 at 9:49 pm

Anyone who wants to can sign up for zero period. It only offers PE, but technically any student can take the class which is important in calculating minutes.

Posted by Jackson
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 9, 2018 at 9:58 pm

To everyone on here, please pause a moment and think about the students. I've been at Paly for 3 years now and I AM SO EXCITED FOR NEXT YEAR!! Whenever they asked students, parents, and teachers, I submitted my feedback to the committee. They clearly put a lot of thought and research into the decision and we need to trust that. Almost every classmate of mine supports the schedule. We're all exhausted and looking forward to the late start. I say we hold our judgement until we've seen it in action. Remember, there is no perfect schedule, but this one looks pretty great!

Posted by Teacher
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2018 at 11:35 pm

@Paly Student et al.

If that makes you feel better, cool; I'm not interested in getting in a big online shouting match. I've been in education for around 15 years, and this isn't my first, second, or third time dealing with instructional minutes and making sure that whatever school I was at met the requirements (not least of which was because I didn't want to stay during the summer!).

Los Gatos-Saratoga changed their schedule last school year and published a nice FAQ for the community. An interesting section follows:

2. What Counts as Instructional Minutes?1
There are many stipulations regarding the minutes that count toward the 64,800. Relevant examples include:
-That the time must be under the immediate supervision of certificated teachers.
-Tutorial time counts toward instructional minutes if supervised by certificated staff AND is not at the beginning or end of the day (embedded tutorials DO count).
-Passing periods can count toward instruction, provided that they are equal in length, do not exceed 10 minutes apiece, are not adjacent to the lunch period, or at the beginning or end of day (i.e., warning bells).

3. Of particular interest to the Saratoga High School community:
Additional periods outside the core periods of 1-6 (i.e., 0 period or 7th period) count toward instructional minutes if:
-Valid course offering is accessible to all grade levels and all abilities (This will be true of 7th period at SHS in 16-17).
-There are no barriers to attendance (such as transportation).
-There is reasonable student participation.
-Course offerings are a fair representation of other period course offerings and not just specialized courses.

The facts that Paly only offers PE during Zero period, that participation is low, and that there at transportation barriers for VTP students would seem to indicate that Zero period's minutes would be disallowed by an objective third party. If that happens (and it turns out that students owe 60-90 hours of additional time for each year that they were on this schedule), what do you think might happen to the value of Paly diplomas?

Like I said above, this isn't my hill to die on since I don't teach there. But I have friends who do, and both they and the students deserve a schedule that meets state requirements. I completely understand wanting to sleep in later. It's 11:30 right now, and I'm about to grade for a couple of hours before going to bed and then getting up at 6:00 to get to my school on time. a later start time with the same end time would be great! But you can't just do what Bell, CA did a couple of years ago and say, "Hey, you know what? This committee that we're paid to be on is going to meet from 12:00-12:01 once a week. Where are our checks?" Similarly, a school can't just say, "We're going to have a seven period day, and all periods will be 15 minutes long!" without consequences.

Either way, good luck, and remember: what is popular isn't always right and vice-versa.

Posted by Teacher 2
a resident of another community
on May 10, 2018 at 6:13 am

A year ago, Paly Voice reported that the state auditor spotted that Paly teachers weren't teaching enough and made Kim Diorio fix it: "the state audited our’s and Gunn’s [High School’s] schedules and found out that both are around 2,000 minutes short of the state standard.” Web Link

Paly's fix for this school year: students are required to take two mandatory Flex periods, they must stay on campus during Advisory period the days their Advisor does not meet with them, and InFocus was changed to a long broadcast. Web Link

Under 86-06, for Flex and Advisory minutes to count they have to be academically valuable, attendance must be taken, and students need to be under the control of a certificated employee.

Posted by Barron park resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 10, 2018 at 8:57 pm

Please do this at GUNN too. It's very frustrating to hear about progressive measures that are research driven implemented at Paly and not at GUNN

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