The Palo Alto Unified School District plans to adopt a modified block bell schedule for the 2021-2022 school year once it is reviewed and approved, according to an update from the superintendent earlier today.

The new schedule includes all seven periods on Mondays and 90-minute block periods during the rest of the week, for both middle and high schools.

For high school students, school will begin at 9 a.m. every day and end at 3:50 p.m. on Mondays, 4:10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. 

Many students are looking forward to the 9 a.m. start time, allowing school to begin 40 minutes later than it did during the 2019-2020 school year to ensure students are able to get sufficient sleep each night.

“We now have the opportunity to get the full nine hours of recommended sleep, which we of course know has immense benefits to students’ mental and physical health,” sophomore Rebecca Helft said. “I remember when school was let out [last March] and I started getting eight to nine hours of sleep, as opposed to six, seven, or even five. … Me and all my friends felt so much better.”

Despite benefits, one consequence of school starting later is the later end times each day. 

“It will be a big scheduling change, and I know that lots of people are concerned about extracurriculars conflicting with school hours, but I’m positive it will work out,” Helft said. “I think what we often forget is that any time there’s a change, even for the better, it takes a little time for everything to follow suit as well. Because most, if not all, extracurriculars are directly serving kids and teens, they will follow the shift in school hours.”


“It will be a big scheduling change, and I know that lots of people are concerned about extracurriculars conflicting with school hours, but I’m positive it will work out. I think what we often forget is that any time there’s a change, even for the better, it takes a little time for everything to follow suit as well.”

— Rebecca Helft, sophomore


According to PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin’s Weekly Update released this afternoon, all high schools in Santa Clara County have similar start times, ranging between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m.

“With a seven-period day, we are actually better positioned to handle after-school activities and athletics than many of our peers,” Austin wrote. “Students with athletics and extracurricular activities will be prioritized to have physical education classes or prep at the end of their days.”

Middle schools are slated to have a seven-period schedule on Mondays. However, for middle schoolers, school will start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. on Mondays, 3:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and 1:45 p.m. on Fridays. 

If this schedule is adopted, middle schools will have a block schedule in-person for the first time, which will be an added challenge for teachers.

“It is hard for me to predict what any challenges will be with the longer blocks as I have yet to teach block periods in any other format than on Zoom,” Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School teacher Elizabeth Lewis wrote in an email to Verde. “Personally, I will be thinking about how to break up the blocks into smaller activities in order to maximize student learning during the 90-minute periods.”

PAUSD middle schools are set to adopt a modified block bell schedule for the 2021-22 school year. Photo courtesy of Don Austin in a Schoology update

PAUSD high schools are planning to adopt a modified block bell schedule for the 2021-22 school year. Photo courtesy of Don Austin in a Schoology update