On Monday, all Palo Alto Unified School District high schools and middle schools will start classes at 10 a.m. The new Monday late start schedule is intended to give teachers and administrators additional time to plan, coordinate and improve their instruction, according to Gunn High School Principal Wendy Stratton.
Teachers currently meet weekly on Wednesdays after school for 40 minutes to align and optimize teaching strategies. The implementation of the late start schedule adds six additional time slots for professional learning communities to meet.
“Both the principal of Paly and I felt when we landed on a master schedule that we would really like it if we could have built in some more time for teachers to work together in order to improve their learning outcomes,” Stratton said. “The research really does show that when teachers collaborate that has the number one impact on improving student performance.”
The decision to implement late start Mondays was made by administrators before the start of the 2023-24 school year, according to Stratton, but not released publicly until recently as details are still being decided. Despite the reduction in total instruction hours, PAUSD secondary schools will still remain well over the required hour threshold.
The late start Monday schedule will serve as a trial for the system, Stratton said. Both Gunn and Paly administrations will be evaluating feedback from teachers, students and parents to gauge the popularity and effects of the schedule.
PAUSD teachers have expressed varying sentiments about the schedule change. Some are eager to make use of the increase in time for PLCs, while others see the reduction in instructional time as being detrimental to students.
“The existing PLC time on Wednesdays feels very slapdash,” Gunn social studies teacher and former bell schedule committee member Tara Firenzi said. “I hope that the Monday PLC period will be a time where we can have a sustained focus on some of these things that we’re trying to do so that we can at least feel a little bit more thoughtful in the way that we do the things that we’re trying to do together.”
Other teachers feel that the existing weekly PLC time is sufficient and shouldn’t be increased, especially if an increase in PLC time causes a reduction in instructional hours.
“I’m not super happy about it,” Gunn psychology teacher Warren Collier said. “The main reason is I feel that over the years they have been encroaching on the amount of time that we actually have in class to teach.”
As for students, many are just excited to sleep in, according to Gunn senior Rohan Kancherla.
“As Gunn students, we can all make use of an extra hour of sleep,” Kancherla said. “It will be really helpful to catch up on sleep.”
There are six late start Mondays this school year: Sept. 18, Oct. 16, Nov. 13, Jan. 22, Feb. 26 and April 22.