MVLA approves new bell schedule

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Courtesy of MVLA
The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District has approved a new bell schedule, as part of an agreement with the teacher's union.

Local high schoolers have a new bell schedule, but its implementation is uncertain as the coronavirus pandemic upends the school day.

“That’s the million-dollar question right there,” board president Sanjay Dave said. “What schedule are we going to have for the fall?”

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved an agreement with the teacher’s union June 8, which includes the new bell schedule. The deal also calls for teachers to receive a one-time 2% lump sum payment, but no ongoing salary increase as the district faces financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

Under the new bell schedule, school would start at 8:40 a.m., a half hour later than before. Four days of the week will also now be block days, with half the classes meeting each day for longer, 85-minute periods.

The district has been working in earnest since last fall to create a bell schedule that pushes back start times, letting students sleep later each morning. A new state law requires that by the 2022-2023 school year, high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

To change the bell schedule, the district also had to adjust the school year itself. If the school day is shorter, more days in the school year are needed to meet state instructional minutes requirements.

The ensuing negotiations were at times contentious. In January, union president David Campbell said he was “stunned and offended” that the board had approved a calendar without consulting teachers.

Following the union’s objections, the board passed a revised calendar in February that matched a union-backed proposal. However, the bell schedule wasn’t finalized until last week, when the school board approved it as part of the union agreement.

The agreement also includes the lump-sum payment for teachers, but no permanent raise. The decision to offer a one-time payment, “is directly tied to the economic uncertainty that’s come about from COVID-19,” Associate Superintendent Mike Mathiesen said.

Beyond the bell schedule and compensation, the union and district agreed to hold off on other negotiations, due to the pandemic. Topics including teacher leaves, class size and staffing ratios were delayed until next year.

“It was already hard enough to do the negotiations in person, I couldn’t imagine doing the negotiations via Zoom,” Campbell said. “The bandwidth that we had was so limited, figuratively and literally.”

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