OP-ED: A Chime of Choice


“Church Bells” by shioshvili is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

On Aug. 3, 2022, about a week and a half before school started, an email from Casa Grande administration was sent out to parents and students informing them that a new bell schedule would be devised and implemented in the coming days. No one thought much of it at that point. That was, until the new schedule was actually unveiled to the public through another email on August 9th.

“We are excited to present an opportunity to provide more student support opportunities throughout the day,” the email chirpily reported. Though, the bell schedule itself was not immediately anything to be happy about.

In the email, there were two new additions of consequence. The first was a 45 minute increase to the total length of the school day from last year, changing the dismissal time from a pleasant 2:35 PM to 3:20 PM. The second was the creation of “Academic Flex Time” or “AFT” for short, which added an additional 25 minutes of “study hall” time to each class period.

Many students were outraged in the wake of this sudden change, especially considering that it was made just days before the school year would begin. Students became upset that the new schedule would be disruptive to their personal lives, especially for those who had extracurricular activities and jobs.

Allen Phuong, CGHS Student Board Representative for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, noted that in recent polls he had released to the student body, “…many students dislike the Academic Flex Time and just the bell schedule in general, “ Phuong reported. “With Academic Flex Time, often being too short, it’s really hard for students to get the teacher resources and support that they need…”

It must be realized by the student body, however, that this change was not made by choice. It is part of a new education mandate under the State of California’s new Senate Bill 328.

S.B. 328, passed recently by the state legislature, was intended to improve the overall quality of life for students by setting a state mandated school start time. It declares that high schools are no longer permitted to begin before 8:30 AM. Of course, this addition sounds somewhat pointless at first glance; the school day began at 8:30 AM last year anyways. But it is the second part of this new legislation that is the real kicker.

“This section does not prohibit a school district or charter school from offering classes or activities to a limited number of pupils before the start of the schoolday that do not generate average daily attendance for purposes of computing any apportionments of state funding,” states California Education Code Section 46418, Part B. 

Since S.B. 328 had not gone into effect last year, or in years prior, Casa Grande was able to count zero periods as part of the actual school day, and thus, they were able to release students at an earlier time in the day. But this new legislation now specifically restricts schools from engaging in this practice. In order to meet yearly attendance quotas, Casa Grande had no choice but to increase the length of the school day while maintaining the same number of school days in the year.

However, Phuong notes that despite this mandate, the bell schedule did not necessarily have to be organized in this way. “…it doesn’t really matter what bell schedule we actually have, as long as it meets the instructional minutes.”

Many students still remain irritated because of these changes, but Phoung stated that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

“…What’s probably going to happen is that moving forward, we’re going to try and incorporate…all the families, student and faculty perspectives to create a bell schedule, hopefully for next semester,” Phuong said.

This issue is expected to be brought up at the next PCS School Board meeting.