It is official: changes are coming to the bell schedule at Santa Barbara High School. As of the 2021-2022 school year, the current six course system will no longer comply with a new state-law which requires all high schools to start first period no earlier than 8:30AM. Our current schedule, which starts at 8AM on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, will be in violation of this law, so a multitude of options are being considered by the school’s teachers and faculty. Specifically, a committee of teachers has been formed to take into account the needs of the staff. After surveying the staff and presenting their findings at a recent meeting, the committee will come up with three new schedules for the teachers to vote on. Potential options include an eight-course block system similar to San Marcos, the current schedule just pushed back thirty minutes, and a hybrid system integrating some block classes with some regular classes. Santa Barbara High School Principal Dr. Simmons says that the next step in the process will be to get input from the other key members of the SBHS community: students and parents, in order to come up with a system that works for everyone.
Although an eight course system is being considered, some groups have expressed concern. AP teachers are worried about how students would retain material for a test in May based on a class only taken during the first semester. Additionally, second semester AP classes would have substantially less time to finish the content because of how the testing dates cut off the semester. Sports and art programs which rely on a year-round sixth period are also trying to figure out how their programs would operate, especially considering that about half of students at SBHS play on a sports team. The tiered block system with shorter periods at the start and end of the day could potentially mitigate this problem, with sixth period being specifically reserved for these programs. Ms. Quinn, who teaches biology and is one of the members of the committee, says that in addition to the 8:30 AM start time, the other big constraint of the new system is that the California Education Code requires 64,800 instructional minutes per year. On the other hand, there are potential equity issues with one school in our district, San Marcos, having a block schedule that allows them to take eight courses per year while students at SBHS can only take six courses. The contract with The Santa Barbara Teachers’ Association, the union which represents teachers in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, will also need to be renegotiated in 2021, which opens up the possibility of teachers teaching six courses in an eight course system, rather than the current five courses in a six course system. This is actually less teaching time and more prep time overall, but is technically in violation of the current contract.
From here, two things will happen: the staff will vote in August between the options proposed by the committee, and provided the union contract can be renegotiated and there are no other roadblocks, the new system will go into place in the 2021-2022 school year when the law requires. Students at Santa Barbara High School should be prepared for the way this change will affect their course plans, but it is hard to know at this point what the new schedule will look like with the needs of so many groups being taken into account. Clearly, there are some major changes coming to Santa Barbara High School in the near future. In addition to this new schedule, the stadium nearing completion and the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s purchase of the armory across the street from SBHS all mark the 2020’s as an exciting time in the history of a school with a layered and rich 145 year legacy.