Scottsdale high schools to receive school-day alteration

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board Room is located inside the Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board Room is located inside the Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Twenty minutes a day might not seem like a large chunk of time, but over an entire school year it adds up.

Within the 3,600 minutes Scottsdale Unified School District students could be adding to their yearly schedule they could have eaten at least, 720 pieces of pizza.

Or, read the entire Harry Potter book series — a feat said to take a total of 60 hours.

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board is looking to change the high school bell system to more accurately follow regulations regarding how long students are in school by increasing the day by 20 minutes.

Changing the high school planning guide was a discussion item on the June 21 regular SUSD board meeting agenda.

Dr. Karen Benson, executive director of Instructional Services, presented to the board and top leadership revisions to the high school planning guide. Two other revisions include adding four elective options and clarifying the process and system for accepting core credits taken outside of the district.

The Arizona Department of Education audit findings determined that high school students attending four or fewer courses were deemed deficient in the state-required number of annual instructional hours, she said.

0629Ns Education (Meeting Agendas)The district is proposing students start school 15 minutes earlier, and release five minutes later, to meet the required hours. The move will make each class about three minutes longer.

“As many of our neighboring districts across the Valley have discovered during ADE audits, we, too, are learning that most high school students attending four or fewer courses are identified as deficient in meeting the state-required number of annual instructional hours,” said Dr. Benson.

“This most impacts our seniors, as all the rest of our students are taking six credit hours during the school day, per semester.”

The solution? Either ask seniors to take more than four courses, or adjust the bell schedule.

For the immediate future, the district opted to move forward with the latter option.

Within the June 21 consent agenda, the board approved the new requirement of attending school for a total of 720 hours. The proposal was first brought up during a June 2 study session, where Michelle Marshall, general counsel at SUSD, presented recommended revisions.

Minutes from the June 2 study session state, “The policy change will now require graduating seniors to enroll in a minimum of five (5) classes or an equivalent program of study that provides seven hundred twenty (720) or more instructional hours. This is required by state statute.”

The bell schedule change is to begin in August. If the district decides to mandate a fifth hour, it could be grandfathered in at a later time, said Interim Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell.

“If we didn’t adjust the bell schedule then we’re barely meeting the minutes and we really then have to mandate a fifth class,” said Dr. Birdwell.

“Down the road, if the district was to say ‘you know what, we just think it’s best practice for seniors to take five classes,’ I would recommend that we do a phase-in starting with the freshman class and move forward. So that the parent and then student knows, when I get to the senior year, ‘I’m going to be in five classes because it’s in my best interest.’”

The four additional elective classes district officials proposed are Introduction to Finance, Public Speaking, Reading for College Success and Thinking and Learning Strategies.

The governing board will be voting on the proposed bell schedule June 30. In addition, Dr. Birdwell is expected to discuss changes to the middle school bell schedule.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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