Palo Alto

Peninsula High School Discusses Reducing Class Time, Anxiety

Too much stress and too many suicides brought out parents, students, and teachers to Gunn High School in Palo Alto Monday night to discuss reducing class time.

Anxiety is a serious issue for students, so the high school is looking to change its class structure. This idea has skeptics, but everyone does agree that more needs to be done to help these students.

Sabrina's freshman year didn't start out the way any new high school student could imagine. Since the start of the school year, there have been several suicides involving Gunn and Palo Alto high school students.

She and her friends attended a meeting at Gunn High school Monday night to learn more about possible changes to reduce the stress on students.

"I think what we have now is pretty stressful. We have a lot of homework at night because we have six classes a day," Sabrina said. "I think it's a good idea because obviously there needed to be changes."

The town hall meeting brought students, parents, and educators together to hear about a proposed non-traditional bell schedule for Gunn's students. The idea is to create a healthier environment for students. Directed by the district, a committee is looking into a possible block schedule. That would mean some school days could have fewer periods but longer class time.

Supporters said this would allow for students to do their homework in class and foster better relationships with teachers and classmates. A later start time to their school day is also being considered to give students more sleep. One big change Gunn students will also face next year is they won't be able to take academic classes in zero period anymore. And this isn't sitting well with some students.

"How they took away zero period in the morning, they took away academically," high school junior Sharat said. "That takes away my prep at the end of the day which I need for sports."

But school officials say big changes are needed to help create a better, safer learning environment for their students. The Palo Alto community has already put a program in place that offers resources for students and a wellness center is being built on Gunn's Campus.

"We can't afford to wait. This needs to happen next year, and it's part of a big cultural change," Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Max McGee said. "We're trying again to focus on learning, great teaching and innovative ideas, not just on who has the highest GPA and who's taking the AP's."

Based on discussions from Monday's meeting, the committee will present a proposal to the school board in May. The hope is to implement a new bell schedule by the start of the next school year.

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