By Evelyn Archibald and Judy Ly
Denali senior William Torborg said it is hard for most students to stay focused for long durations. He pointed out that as a student with ADHD, it is harder for him to maintain concentration in class.
“It’s not like, the most fun to sit through four and a half hours of class and then get a break,” Torborg said.
In a majority of interviews, students echoed similar concerns in response to no longer having brunch as a form of a break in their daily bell schedule.
For the 2019-20 school year, a new uniform bell schedule was introduced to students across all Summit schools in California.
Here is a Story Map of all the school sites mentioned in this article.
One of the changes to the schedule included a new breakfast block before classes started.
Replacing brunch with breakfast
Brunch, which previously acted as a 15-minute break, in the first portion of classes, was removed. Instead, breakfast was implemented before students start their first block of the day: Mentor Self-Directed Learning (SDL). This class aims to essentially be a study hall for students with their mentor groups.
Summit Public Schools Superintendent Anson Jackson said the purpose of having classes back-to-back until lunch time, was to make sure teachers had a consistent schedule and workload. Students would in return have a more consistent flow from project to project and class to class, without disruption from a break in between.
“The idea [for students] is to minimize the changes throughout the day and minimize the breaks of cognitive load,” Superintendent Jackson said.
Rainier Senior President Madelin Morales said she noticed less productivity happening in the classrooms without having a break in between classes.
“Kids have to use the restroom a lot more during — like during our regular classes, solely because, like, during our break, or what we used to have as brunch, a lot of people use that time to use the restroom,” Morales said. “I definitely noticed a lot more students having to go, like one after another. And it doesn’t seem like they’re doing it just for fun, but they genuinely — because they have to.”
Hailey Kaufman, a senior from Summit Prep, said her peers have been “losing focus” in class.
“We’ve lost that break to kind of reset before our next class,” Kaufman said.
According to Superintendent Jackson, another reason for having brunch removed was so students can start off their day with breakfast.
“Adding breakfast as opposed to taking away brunch is kind of the idea; not to take away anything but to add something,” Superintendent Jackson said.
However, Tahoma Executive Director Jonathan Stewart said the implementation of breakfast has not been effective on Tahoma’s campus.
“We have fewer people taking breakfast in the morning than we did people taking brunch last year,” Mr. Stewart said.
Calvin Andrews, who acted as the student body president for Summit K2’s 2018-19 school year, said brunch was more suitable for students. He explained that brunch allowed students to buy food items between classes, making it more accessible to students who showed up close or late to start time.
K2 has also implemented a new lining up policy in which students need to line up at a certain area on campus before going to class. Andrews claimed this policy makes it harder for students to buy breakfast before school starts.
K2’s new Executive Director Cythnia Jerez said one of the goals of the lining up policy is to inspire students to get breakfast.
She said, “Our campus is next to the field where students are, like, lining up. So that encourages, actually, them to actually go to the cafeteria and grab breakfast.”
Superintendent Jackson addressed this concern of students not arriving early enough to access meals and being hungry between classes and lunch. He said teachers are able to provide snacks to students near the end of the morning Mentor SDL block. However, teachers providing snacks is not a normalized standard across all campuses.
“It’s not an expectation,” Superintendent Jackson explained, “but that is the flexibility of the time.”
By gathering input from local administration at school sites, Superintendent Jackson said drafts of the schedule were created. Later on, three proposed schedule structures were sent to teachers and faculty to gather feedback.
In the initial drafts made by Summit Leadership (executive administration) and school-site-based administration (principals and deans), the focus was on the scheduling of Mentor SDL time and the structure of core class time. The switch from brunch to breakfast wasn’t included or discussed.
However, he added that the idea of replacing brunch with breakfast was a joint decision between “school leaders” based off feedback and experiences on campus during brunch.
“Adding breakfast to the schedule was not a part of that proposal at the time,” Superintendent Jackson said.
There is a petition circulating to reinstate brunch, as a way to reinstate a morning break, at Rainier’s campus.
Changes to lunch time
Lunch was altered as well, having the standard lunch time moved to be from 12:30 p.m. until 1:00 p.m. For campuses like Everest and K2, their lunch was shortened.
Everest senior Molly Pigot said the response to the reduction has been mostly negative. “Our lunch break was reduced from 45 minutes to 30 minutes, which I think a lot of students are really upset with.”
For Summit Prep students, Kaufman said lunch is now later in the day than previously.
Pigot mentioned the students at Summit Everest attempted to stage a walkout against the changes; however, they were met with faculty pushback and students were not allowed to participate.
The lunch break is now earlier for students at Tahoma, Denali, and Shasta compared to last year.
Shared space concerns
Most Summit schools have their own facilities and campuses for students to attend; however, some school sites are co-located with another school.
Ernesto Umaña, a middle school math teacher for Summit Tam, said the bell schedule did not heavily impact their shared spaces. Tam’s middle school and high school share a campus, blacktop and gym with Aspire Richmond California College Preparatory Academy.
He also noted that Tam Middle School now has minimum days on Wednesdays, which has been received positively by students.
However, in the South Bay, students at Tahoma and Rainier no longer have access to the blacktop area and basketball courts, previously shared with their home school, due to having coinciding lunch times.
Mr. Stewart said Tahoma was already considering revoking the access to blacktop usage due to past student behavior issues. The new bell schedule caused Oak Grove High School’s blacktop to be an off-limit space as default.
At Rainier’s campus students protested against the restricted blacktop usage and bell schedule changes.
Edwin Avarca, former assistant director and current executive director at Rainier’s campus, said the reasons why Rainier students have to be separated from Mt. Pleasant’s campus are due to safety concerns in regards to student interaction in a shared space.
“That’s like a large concern that we have as a whole,” Mr. Avarca said, referencing each school’s administration. “How could they support if there’s a potential conflict? I think that that is the biggest concern is ensuring student safety if we’re sharing the blacktop at the same time.”
Mr. Stewart also said Tahoma’s lunch on Wednesdays is scheduled from 1:10 p.m. to 1:40 p.m. because KIPP, the second school Tahoma is co-located with, has their lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays.
By default, classes start at 8:20 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m. across all Summit campuses this school year. At Denali’s current high school campus, the school had to adjust their start time. Denali students start their classes at 8:35 a.m. due to an agreement with the City of Sunnyvale.
Denali Executive Director Kevin Bock explained that the permit Denali has with the city allows for their campus to start no earlier than 8:35 a.m. There is an elementary school across from Denali, meaning the two schools need to stagger start times due to concerns regarding morning traffic.
Denali students also have lunch at 12:45 p.m., 15 minutes past the default time.
Continued debate about bell schedule changes
Superintendent Jackson said the Summit Public Schools leadership team prioritized the betterment of students and teachers on the job when creating the uniform bell schedule.
Andrews disputes this claim, saying that in reality, the opposite effect is happening based on his experiences at K2. He explained that students’ lives can be very different when campuses range from Richmond to San Jose to Daly City. He continued to explain that life for students in Richmond differs greatly from their Summit peers in other cities.
“We’re two different schools, from different backgrounds, from different economic backgrounds, different racial backgrounds, living in different areas where our lives are different,” Andrews said. “We all have different needs; we all have different wants; we all have things that are affecting us in different ways. And by Summit sort of putting us under an umbrella of, ‘Oh, this works at one school, it will work at another.’ It’s just not working.”
Featured image at top: K2 students walk to their first class after lining up in the morning. PHOTO CREDIT: Hannah Kim
Denali Editor-in-Chief Ellen Hu contributed reporting to this article.