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Principal's Message

February 2018 -- Principal's Message

Dear Homestead,

As many of you are aware, our district has recently adopted and voted in two new schedules for our five high schools. There have been many questions raised, so I wanted to take a moment to go through how we got here, what is new and different about the schedules, and what steps we will be taking moving forward.  For those of you who have not seen the new schedule, here it is:



The idea for a schedule change comes up every few years, but it really gathered momentum when a petition was started to review our current bell system and to align it with the current data regarding sleep research.  The research shows that teenagers have different sleep patterns than younger students and adults, and they require more hours of sleep in order to stay healthy.  The research stated that starting schools at a later time would be beneficial to reducing health issues like stress and depression.  The district responded by creating a Wellness Task Force almost two years ago made up of parents, staff members, administrators, and community members.  The focus of this group started with the idea of a later start but quickly bloomed into a multi-faceted look at the various types and causes of stress in our district and how we might all come together to help alleviate some of the harmful stress that our students are faced with everyday.  Both a parent and student survey were administered during the 2016-2017 school year.  Members of the task force went out to the five high schools to talk with staff, parents and students about both the survey as well as potential ideas for the schedule.  Along the way, the benefits of aligning the school schedules also became a focal point because up until this year, each of our high schools had separate and distinct schedules, which did create some issues in regard to sharing students, staff or resources.  I am not sure that we could put a number on how many people gave input, but the committee covered a lot of ground with all stakeholders before turning over to the teacher’s union their suggestions for a new schedule.

The Fremont Education Association (FEA) does have the right according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement to vote on any new schedules that have been proposed.  This is why every effort was made to get surveys done, talk to groups and work with our various professional associations and community members so that FEA had a truly district-wide concept to vote on.  When looking over the five different schedules, we did find a lot of common ground -- namely that Cupertino, Lynbrook and Monta Vista had similar but not the same schedule featuring two block days while Fremont and Homestead had similar but not the same schedule that featured four days of block.  This became the starting point for looking at how to align the schedules and begin working on the various components to provide healthy options.  Fast forward to January 2018, and the schools were asked to vote on whether to use the schedule with 2 days of block or 4 days of block.  Homestead and Fremont stayed with the four day model, and Cupertino voted to move from the two day model to the four day model.  Monta Vista and Lynbrook voted to stay with the two day model.  I will try to summarize the new and different aspects to the four day block since this is the schedule that we will use for the 2018-2019 school year.

Collaboration or Late Starts:
Right now, every school has one day of collaboration, or what students and families refer to as a Late Start.  Homestead’s late start is Monday mornings while the other four schools had late start on Wednesdays.  This meant that Homestead teachers could not participate in district-wide collaboration with the other schools, so it became important to find a way to make this happen.  Now, while a late start means sleeping in for students, it does not mean the same thing for our staff.  We still come to school at the regular time and meet in course alike teams to do the important work of improving our instructional programs and aligning practices (a goal that is very important to both staff and parents).  Most of our teachers serve on two course alike teams (for instance, a math teacher who teaches Algebra and Calculus would be a member of each of those course alike teams).  Having just one collaboration morning a week meant that teams might not be able to meet for weeks when you add in three days weekends or other meetings that may happen during those mornings.  Across the district, teachers asked for a second day of collaboration with one of those days falling on a day when all five schools could meet. Starting next year, Homestead will have collaboration, or late starts, on Wednesdays and Fridays, with the common day being Wednesday for all five schools.  Overall having two days of collaboration means that course alike teams can meet more often and continue that important work.

No First Period Option Creates a True Late Start Everyday!
With the new schedule having two collaborations and then first period starting the other three days of the week, a student who chooses the “No First Period” option would be able to start after 8:45 a.m. every day of the week.  Currently, because Homestead starts days with both a first period and second period depending on the day, the “no first period” option only meant a late start for three of the five days.  While many families were interested in starting later, there were also families who liked the current start times and did not want a late start.  These new schedules give families the option to start late or start early based on their needs.  We cannot guarantee that every student who asks for a “no first” will get that request but we will work hard to help facilitate as many as possible.  All five schools will start at 8:00 a.m. next year, which is a delay of 25 minutes for all but Homestead as we were the only school to start at 7:50 a.m.

One Less Tutorial, but Tutorial is Longer:
This was certainly a hard one for Homestead to process but in the spirit of compromise, everyone lost a little something and everyone gained a little something (or kept something) from their old schedules.  Homestead was the only one of the five high schools that had four tutorials while others had just one, two or three days of tutorial.  When aligning the schedules, it became apparent that we could align all schools with three days while increasing the time.  This allows students more time to work with teachers, or the potential to spend time in one class before grabbing a pass to move to another class, which was much harder with the shorter tutorial periods.  The tutorials are placed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in order to be spaced out evenly and cover the entire week.

No Loss of Instructional Minutes:
While the new schedules have certainly brought up questions about instructional time, much care was given to keeping instructional minutes the same.  You will see changes in the lengths of block periods, skinny periods, tutorials and even a passing period but the total calculation of minutes allows us to reach the state required minimum of 64,800 minutes for the year.  Calculating these minutes is a long and arduous process when you take in the various schedules for rallies, testing, finals, special events and regular days but instructional minutes can also be calculated for time outside of class such as passing periods and tutorials.  We can’t have a four hour passing period and count it as instructional minutes, so we do follow the guidelines for being able to use those minutes appropriately.

No More Skinny 7th Period that meets every day:
Homestead was the only school that had a period like this, so it was a casualty of the compromise.  There has always been a lot of confusion about 7th Skinny vs. 7th Block, so hopefully the clarification will outweigh the loss of it.

3:25pm dismissal:
The last class of the day on each of the five days will end at 3:25 p.m.  If a student does not have a 6th or 7th period, then they will be done at lunchtime on the block days (this would differ for someone who has no 6th but does have a 7th on the Monday).  We have received many questions and concerns about how a later dismissal will affect the release of athletes or extra-curricular participants for practices and events or games.  The later dismissal time does mean that practices will need to start a little later, which will conflict with the ability to get enough hours in to practice for those sports who rely on sunlight and not artificial light, so we will need to plan for that and watch how this might positively or negatively affect teams.  At this point we do not have enough information, but we will be purposeful on how we assign and arrange practices and events.  A major conflict for this is working with the other teams in our leagues to start games later.  Many teams in our league are from different districts who have their own challenges and issues with schedules, but we are actively working together to see where we can reach common ground.  The other side of this issue is how much class time would an athlete or extra-curricular participant such as band, cheer, dance, robotics, or others miss when leaving for games or events.  This also means we as a staff need to be aware of and work with students to help support them should they be required to miss class for a school related event.  These are conversations that we have started and will continue to have as we assess how the schedule is working next year.  Our guidance department will be identifying students who participated in previous year athletics to see if we can reduce conflicts due to scheduled games on days where a 6th or a 7th would cause a burden.  This will not be able to happen in every case, but we will be mindful of how to schedule this accordingly and assess as the year progresses.  Practices should not be starting before 3:25 p.m. so no one should miss class for a practice.

Brunch and Lunch are Later:
There was a lot of debate about where to put brunch and lunch so that it made sense and worked within the scope of the schedule.  Both brunch and lunch are about an hour later in the day than they currently stand, which is something that may or may not be an issue but we won’t really know until we live through it a bit.  I would suggest packing a quick snack if you have a 1st period class so that a student doesn’t get too hungry waiting until 11:00 a.m. for brunch.  This is the reason a ten minute passing period was added between the first and second periods on the block days so that students and staff could use the restrooms, get a drink of water or have a snack without feeling rushed

Block days are no longer scheduled by “Odd” or “Even” periods:
Currently, Homestead block days were arranged to have odd periods (1,3,5 and 7th block) or even periods (2,4,6).  The new schedule is arranged instead to have periods 1,2,3, and 7 on one day or 4,5,and 6 on the other.  Because we have 7 periods, we could not evenly split the periods over the two days, so the block days with just three periods are on the same days as the two late starts, allowing for a 3:25 p.m. dismissal every day.  I am not sure that much of a difference will be made regarding what periods are on what days, so this will also need to be something that we live through to know the true effects.

What about traffic?
Traffic is a major concern no matter what day or what time school starts or ends, but there have been a lot of questions about moving our start time closer to the start time of nearby elementary and middle schools.  Some are concerned that this will mean more cars on the road at the same time, while others feel that more kids will take the late start option thereby spreading out the traffic, which could either be a problem or a benefit.  No matter what, we will be working with our district as well as the Sheriff and Sunnyvale PD to monitor traffic and work to keep our kids safe.  We are also talking with the Valley Transit Authority about our schedule changes as they have been a very helpful and cooperative partner in transporting our kids to school.  We do not have any specific information on route or time changes yet, but we will make that available as we get it. And finally, we are committed to continuing the great work that the Safe Route To Schools programs has brought to our campus, encouraging drivers to be safe as well as students to use alternative methods to get to school.

Finally, I encourage you to send me your questions or concerns as the new schedule unfolds over the course of the 2018-2019 school year.  Like with any new idea or change, I do expect some hiccups along the way but I am committed to working on those aspects with you to continue in our efforts to make Homestead a great place to learn and work.

Greg Giglio, Principal