Headshot of Rebecca Starkins
csba at issue
By Rebecca Starkins
Ringing the late-start time bell

igned into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019, Senate Bill 328 (Portantino, D-Pasadena) requires that, by the 2022–23 school year, districts implement bell schedules that begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. for high schools and 8 a.m. for middle schools.

The law does provide an exemption for “rural districts” but has not yet provided a definition for the term. Also of note, schools that serve both elementary and middle school students (K-8) are also exempt from the law. This column explores how Beverly Hills High School fulfilled the requirement and thoughtfully implemented a new bell schedule based on student need and stakeholder input.

Moving to a new bell schedule is a district decision, under board direction, that is designed to put student needs first, fulfill a desire to switch to a block schedule and fulfill the mandate in Senate Bill 328. In addition, one of the culture objectives in Beverly Hill Unified School District’s strategic plan is to “implement a new bell schedule that builds in daily dedicated time to address the needs of the developing district culture” and “build in time to address ethics, empathy, and emotional health through collaboration and communication.”

The Beverly Hills High School administrative team working on a plan for the new bell schedule attended stakeholder meetings such as the Parent Teacher Student Association, Associated Student Body, School Site Council and Secondary Education Council for multiple years to gain insight about student, family and community needs. They noted five major concerns consistently referenced by students and parents that could be addressed by a new bell schedule (see table below).

Too many tests were given on Fridays, overloading students
The new block period schedule will ease this burden
Lack of school spirit
The new schedule includes lunchtime spirit events
Period 0 was an unhealthy start time for students who need seven periods in the academic schedule to maximize their educational experience
All students will begin at 8:30 a.m.
The previous schedule crowded out time for athletics without taking a zero period or summer school
The new block schedule allows time for all required academic classes plus athletics, and allows for more course options such as career technical education and dance
Lack of interventions and support for students
The new schedule will provide teachers with uninterrupted preparation time and office hours to support students
“Before the solidification of SB 328, BHUSD had a strong commitment by our Board of Education to address long-standing issues our community has raised about our bell schedule,” said Beverly Hills USD Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy. “In approving our strategic plan with a goal to implement the new bell schedule, the Board of Education fully supported our cabinet team and Beverly Hills High School administrative team in reimagining education by delivering rigorous and enriching quality education and preparing all students to thrive as productive citizens as they graduate — through culture, communication and collaboration.”
New schedule provides student-centered support
This bell schedule is, first and foremost, centered around creating structural changes that can meet the school’s needs for more built-in student support, improvement in school culture and unity through consistent and equitable staff hours.

Most teachers will have period 7 “office hours” at the end of each day, excluding Friday afternoons. All students, counselors, teachers and support groups are encouraged to use this time for academic and social-emotional assistance. For athletes with competing schedules, subject-area office hours will be created to allow additional access.

This bell schedule is intentional about unifying students and staff, providing twice as much collaboration as the pre-COVID schedule, which will help teachers continue to find innovative ways to instruct in all classrooms. The new schedule allows periods 5 and 6 to begin earlier in the day, therefore allowing students with athletic competitions to attend the majority of every class, even when there are away-games.

students depart a school bus under an attendants supervision
This bell schedule is, first and foremost, centered around creating structural changes that can meet the school’s needs for more built-in student support, improvement in school culture and unity through consistent and equitable staff hours.
While the administration acknowledges that the average class length will be reduced in this schedule by approximately six minutes per class per day, the time is made up for in previous instructional time lost in greeting students, taking roll and beginning class in seven classes each day. By moving to a solidified block schedule, students will experience longer, more in-depth instructional conversations with fewer disruptions by moving between fewer classes. This helps with lab work, assessments and classroom presentations. The overall gains in intervention opportunities and healthier lifestyle provided for all students make this a critical time to implement the block schedule as our students, staff and community rebounds from the impacts of COVID-19.

By implementing the new block bell schedule in 2021–22, there will be multiple opportunities for staff and departments to meet and collaborate on data to drive the district strategic plan, Beverly Hills High School goals, and create and implement instructional practices. This leveraged time will support students’ social-emotional health and address education gaps with targeted interventions through instructional rigor.

This bell schedule not only addresses the concerns mentioned above, it takes a decisive step toward an organizational change that will improve the overall student experience: academically, with higher-quality instructional delivery while simultaneously promoting social-emotional wellness and overall health.

Rebecca Starkins is the director of public relations for Beverly Hills USD.