On a regular day of school, Benicia High School students wake up early in the morning to be in class at 8 a.m. Those who take “early bird” classes have to be in the door at 7. The day ends at 3:05, and students who do not have extracurricular activities try to finish the reading and homework they have for that night, giving them just barely enough time to do the things they want before they go to bed and repeat the same routine the next day.
This schedule has been seen as a source of frustration for many Benicia High students and their parents, which has led to the creation of the Schedule Advisory Committee. The group’s goal is to develop a recommendation for a new bell schedule.
According to Shirin Samiljan, an SAC member and parent of two Benicia High Schoolers, Benicia Unified School District Superintendent Charles Young and Benicia High administrators invited members of the community to participate in SAC. The committee is made up of students, parents, teachers and administrators. Among those serving on the council are new BUSD trustee Stacy Holguin, vice principals Kathrine Cole and Sean Thompson, and teachers Morgan Hill, Carleen Maselli, Matt O’Reilly, Kathryn Osmer, Stacy Starkweather and Kim Thompson.
“We have been meeting and working, looking at data and talking to students and teachers since November of 2015,” Samiljan said. “We need to make a recommendation in May of 2016. Implementation will be fall of 2017.”
Samiljan feels the current schedule creates a lot of stress for students.
“It is hard for a university-bound student to cram in all their classes, participate in extracurriculars, have any time for themselves and get enough sleep,” she said. “We are one of the last few schools in the area who still use a traditional non-rotating schedule. Research shows that teenagers need more than 8 hours of sleep every night.”
Community members agree. A petition was set up on change.org by BUSD substitute teacher Annette Balter requesting a later start time for Benicia High. As of press time, the petition has reached 215 signatures.
Samiljan also believes that if classes meet fewer times a week for longer periods of time, there will be more opportunities to support students and “more time for teachers to collaborate across departments, have student-focused meetings and to have department meetings.”
However, SAC has not yet determined a specific schedule for students.
“There are so many options that at this point, we as a committee have not yet sat down with sample schedules,” Samiljan said. “Department heads are talking to teachers, getting their input and we as a committee are prioritizing our desired outcomes.”
One possibility is a block schedule where certain classes would meet on certain days- e.g., Monday/Wednesday/Friday and Tuesday/Thursday- for extended periods of time, not unlike college schedules. However, Samiljan said nothing is set in stone.
“At this point we have not looked at any schedule in particular,” she said. “We are not starting with a schedule and trying to come up with ideas for why that one schedule will meet these requirements. Instead, we are looking at the requirements and sorting those, and then we will determine which schedule is closest.”
According to Samiljan, the meetings are always on point.
“We never go late, and we always stick to the agenda,” she said. “In fact, I've never before participated in any committee that is this focused and well-run.”
Samiljan says SAC will be inviting schools that have adopted schedule changes to come to Benicia to participate in a public forum. The date has not yet been announced, but Samiljan says it will likely be between Tuesday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 16. For more information on the committee, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the group’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/groupsBenicia.SAC.