New bell schedule lacks consistency and wastes too much wasted time

September 8, 2021 — by Ethan Lin
The new bell schedule in all its glory.

This year, the school board elected to change the bell schedule in order to shore up the instructional minutes at both Saratoga and Los Gatos, among other reasons. Although well-intentioned, from a student’s perspective, the new bell schedule limits productivity and instead creates a new set of issues: most notably, inconsistencies across Red and Blue Days and irregular passing times. (Blue Days are periods 2, 4 and 6; Red Days are periods 1, 3, 5 and 7.)

The previous in-person bell schedule had more regularity;  5th and 6th period ended at the same time — a far cry from the post-COVID bell schedule, where periods do not align. 

Inconsistency in the schedule between different days leads to trouble for many students who participate in extracurricular activities or who hold jobs after school. School days not only end at different times (a 30-minute difference between the end of 5th and 6th across Red and Blue Days), but with the alternating Red and Blue Days, every day of each week inevitably has a different ending time — a huge burden for students with long-term commitments. 

The new bell schedule also has tutorials only on Blue Days, limiting student interaction with teachers and time to ask questions outside of class. For Red Days, the new schedule has a 25-minute quasi- tutorial between 1st and 3rd period: a 10-minute announcement period and a 5-minute break followed by a 10-minute passing. 

To students, these time allotments — seemingly just a bandaid to address state-mandated educational minutes requirements — are unnecessarily convoluted. For one, announcements rarely if ever take 10 minutes — the ASB generally finishes announcements within 2 minutes, resulting in students sentenced to 8 minutes of wasted time where they’re being detained like prisoners in a holding cell. 

The 5-minute break is also non-existent, as students must use that time to get to and prepare for their next class. In the end, the time between 1st and 3rd is wasted; students would be better off if some of the tutorial time on Blue Days was allocated to Red Days so that both days would have a proper tutorial. 

Additionally, the 10-minute passings between every period, as opposed to the previous 5-minute passings, are illogical. Although the district’s rationale for the 10-minute passing is attributed partly to the needs of Los Gatos students, who need the extra 5 minutes to get to class due to the size of its large campus, SHS students do not need that extra time to get to class. 

Ten minutes isn’t enough time to do any meaningful work or to socialize and instead causes students who come to class immediately facing five minutes of monotonous nothing. In fact, students who otherwise wouldn’t be late to class might actually be tardy, as most students now do not immediately go to class the moment the passing bell rings, instead choosing to meander around campus like lost sheep, listlessly losing track of time until they flock into the classroom door 2 minutes late. 

Due to some teachers working at both schools, any changes made to fit the needs of SHS students will also affect Los Gatos, so the schedule needs to be the same. As a result, there is no adequate solution to address the wasted time for SHS students for this current school year. 

Ultimately, the new bell schedule needs to be revisited based on teacher, student, and parental input. Maybe next year, with help, the school board can get the schedule right or at least make it better.

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