Gunn looks to implement block periods

Neighboring high school debates pros and cons of newly proposed alternative schedule

Henry M. Gunn High School is considering implementing a block schedule that would take effect as soon as Jan. 2016 in order to provide a social-emotional curriculum to students

Gunn is currently using a schedule where students meet with six out of seven of their classes for 58 minutes each day. Gunn is preparing a schedule similar to that of Palo Alto High School, where classes would meet every other day for 90 minutes each. The change was sparked by members of the community who wanted to reduce student stress through better emotional support on campus.

“There was a schedule committee that was meeting last year, and what was prompting the work to look at the schedule last year was the need for school counselors and others to implement more social emotional curriculum to support student stress and well being,” Gunn principal Dr. Denise Herrmann said. “That was following the first suicide cluster.”

If Gunn decides to implement a block schedule, there needs to be time set aside for a social-emotional curriculum lead by staff members, much like how Paly uses teacher advisors.

“If it’s a teacher advisor who would [run an advisory similar to Paly] or a school counselor, [or a homeroom teacher], we are not quite sure who would be responsible for helping students navigate [through the social emotional] curriculum,” Herrmann said.

Teachers will have an easier time meeting with the common core curriculum.

“The common core curriculum calls for a lot more project and application based learning, and that is easier to do in longer blocks of time,” Herrmann said.

Longer periods would also allow teachers to collaborate more, creating more consistency among courses.

Using a block schedule also helps reduce the amount of time spent on homework per night, since classes would meet fewer times per week.

Gunn sophomore Jenny Han believes students at Gunn would enjoy more efficient class periods.

“I have heard that some class time isn’t filled with teaching and that students have free work time during the non-instructional minutes,” Han said. “That is something a lot of students would enjoy.” However, some Gunn students believe that changing the schedule will not reduce stress.

“I don’t believe that there is a correlation between Gunn’s schedule and the pressure students face,” Gunn junior Alper Karakas said. “I don’t think changing our schedule would do anything beneficial.”

On the May 12 school board meeting, Gunn’s schedule committee, along with its administration, will present its findings on the possible implementation of a new block schedule.

“The school board would hear our recommendations and then at the following meeting they could take action,” Herrmann said. “That would allow us summer and the fall to do professional development, and to develop homeroom or advisory to see what the social-emotional curriculum looks like and then it would be implemented in second semester, which would be January [2016].”