District removes zero period option

The Oracle

Written by Helen Nguyen

Published in the April 17, 2015 issue

Starting with the 2015-16 academic year, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) plans to limit zero period classes to primarily physical education classes. This aligns with Palo Alto High School’s (Paly) rule of not per- mitting core classes to be taken as a zero period.

The change came when on April 10, Superintendent Dr. Max McGee sent out a letter of decision to students, parents and staff of Gunn and Paly regarding zero periods. “I think it is time to make a decision and take action rather than drag this conversation out at the Board and committee level over the next several weeks,” McGee said in the letter. After listening to opinions on the issue from students, pediatricians, parents, teach- ers,andcommunitymembershefinally came to a final decision.

Sophomore class president Chloe Sorensen believes many people outside of the Gunn student and teacher com- munity are misinformed, because they only know what they read online. There are many conflicting messages, which leads to more confusion and disagree- ment between parents. “While most parents agree that students need more sleep, many of them do not understand the expectations of a zero period class,” Sorensen said.

According to Sorensen many parents believe that zero period should be completely abolished, while only some wish for there to be more limitations, such as only offering non-academic or blended courses, or making the enrollment process more complex. “My perception of the public’s views of this issue may be slightly flawed, as I’ve had a unique interaction with the outside community,” Sorensen said. “I spoke up for my peers and asked adults to listen. There were both positive and negative responses. Although I focused mainly on the negative responses, I am heartened by the fact that there were many positive, considerate and open-minded adults who were willing to listen.”

In March, Sorensen conducted an online survey via Google Forms. She received 370 responses, 196 from people enrolled in zero period. When the statistics from the zero period students were compared to the statistics from the entire pool of responses, they were about the same. “90 percent of the responders didn’t want zero period to be taken away,” Sorensen said. “Students listed many valid reasons to keep it: some students are early risers, some students focus better in the mornings, some students have afternoon jobs or sports.” Respond- ers emphasized that the option of zero period allows students to create balance in their lives, rather than disrupt it. “Removing the choice of zero period would be doing many students a disservice,” Sorensen said. “Conversely, if the option is kept, it is important that the school pays special attention to students who enroll in zero period, whether that means observing their sleep schedules more closely, having the enrollment process involve more parental input and guidance, or limiting the courses allowed during zero period,” she said.

During lunch on Wed., April 15, 2015, Sorensen hosted a brown bag lunch on the Freshmen Quad (amphitheater) to discuss zero period. Dr. McGee and Principal Dr. Denise Herrmann were present on Wednesday at the lunch to discuss the recent changes to the zero period scheduling. Many came to help demonstrate to the admin- istration that they cared and wanted their voices to be heard. “The person we really have to win over is Ken Dauber,” Sorensen said. “He is the one who is insistent on making these changes, despite not having a full scope of the situation.”

Sorensen urges all student who are passionate about this issue to come to the school board meeting next Tues. at the District Office.