South Pasadena High School

Important Elective Exception Information


Dear SPHS Parents of Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Grade Students,

We have received feedback on the high school course programming for the 2018-2019 school year and wanted to take the opportunity to provide all parents with background information on this issue, as well as information about some modifications being made. Please read this letter in its entirety, as specific actions may be needed before July 31st. 



SPHS students have the unique opportunity to attend a high school with a seven-period day instead of the standard six-period comprehensive high school schedule. The current seven-period block schedule day at SPHS allows:

  • Students the opportunity to take a study hall/home study and six core and elective courses;
  • For greater programming flexibility; and
  • For the ability to maximize available classrooms.  

The seventh course, study hall, is at no additional cost since it is not considered an instructional period for teachers; teachers teach five periods, have one preparation period, and one supervisory period (e.g. study hall).   If study hall were not offered, the period would be eliminated; then, SPHS would be on a six-period day with more instructional minutes per period to meet the State’s required number of instructional minutes in a school year.  


A six-period bell schedule is how most high schools, if not all, are programmed.  Any change to the bell schedule must be negotiated with the respective bargaining unit as it is considered a change in working conditions. Over the last several years, more and more students were programmed into a seventh course (instead of study hall/home study) on an arbitrary basis.  Not responding to this matter would be irresponsible and detrimental to the school’s ability to provide a vast array of experiences and courses in the future.  



Four years ago, the Board of Education adopted clear and ambitious goals and objectives to provide enriching and relevant curriculum.  Since then, programs such as computer science, biomedicine, AP photo, digital photography, speech and debate, multi-cultural literature, academic decathlon, and an internship program have been established at SPHS.  Additionally, existing courses have been enhanced, such as drama and dance.  Programs such as Virtual Business and others also remain strong.  Despite rumors to the contrary, no courses have been eliminated for the 2018-19 school year.   Student interest in these courses has grown and, therefore, demand for students to enroll in more courses has increased.  This is a natural, expected consequence when providing a robust academic program.  We recognize that selecting courses from so many options can be a challenge.


Some parents have shared that the school should allow all students who are interested in doing so to take a seventh course.  Unfortunately, the financial resources to provide, fairly and equitably, seven courses for all or a majority of students is not feasible and is an unrealistic expectation for a comprehensive public high school in California.  The high school administration has a fiduciary responsibility to manage the high school staffing levels (which are determined by enrollment and students taking six courses) because not doing so can have a negative impact on student programs across the district.


Throughout their time in high school while taking six courses each year, SPHS students have opportunities to meet graduation and UC/CSU requirements, take elective courses, and remain competitive for college admissions, commensurate with students in comparable districts.  



In the last two years, SPHS developed criteria for course exceptions to study hall to increase transparency, to provide consistent and fair course access to all students, and to be fiscally responsible.  These course exceptions to study hall include courses that:

  • Require application/audition- this criterion is aligned to SPUSD’s strategic objective to develop course offerings with an emphasis on the 4 c’s – communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking;
  • Are part of a sequential four-year pathway - this criterion is aligned to SPUSD’s strategic objective to identify, develop, and implement articulated Kindergarten through 12th grade curricular pathways to strengthen student engagement for college and career readiness; and
  • Address credit recovery needs - this criterion is aligned to SPUSD’s strategic objective to evaluate and modify existing intervention programs to close the achievement gap for identified sub-groups.

For the 2018-19 school year, the exception list included nineteen courses in lieu of study hall.  (In contrast, a student in a neighboring school district does not have the advantage of an exception list and would have to take a zero period course at 7:00 a.m. in order to have a seventh class; these zero period courses are also limited to 3-5 zero period offerings in that neighboring district).  



Based upon feedback, the school administration revisited the exception list to determine if additional courses met the criteria or if the criteria could be modified to expand the list of courses school-wide without increasing staffing levels, costs, or instructional spaces. 

In addition to the three criteria listed above, the following criterion has been added:

  • Courses for performing groups, whose class size contractual limit may exceed thirty-six students (such as athletic teams, band, drama, and choir);

The following courses have also been added to the exception list for meeting the sequential four-year pathway criterion:

  • Computer science courses for students who began the pathway as freshmen with the intention of completing all four computer science courses

For the complete list of the exception courses for the 2018-19 school year, please visit this webpage:

As in prior years, study hall remains a requirement for all ninth graders. 



If your child is in tenth, eleventh or twelfth grade and would like to request an exception course in lieu of study hall, please visit the following webpage to submit a Google form by July 31st:


Please note that space in the exception courses is limited and students will be randomly assigned to courses through computer-based scheduling modules.  Students are not guaranteed their priority choice.  Class sizes will not exceed the contractual limits nor will additional class sections be added beyond current staffing levels.  Locator cards with student’s class schedules will be distributed at student registration.


Also, please consider the stress and anxiety that taking a seventh course may have on your child before making the decision about the exception list.  We know that you value the social-emotional health and well-being of your child as we do.  We also encourage you to have conversations with your child about meaningfully using the time allotted in study hall to help them lead a balanced life and be academically successful in their classes. 


Please understand that changes to the high school’s bell schedule must be negotiated with the respective labor association, and adjustments to the high school staffing levels would need to be part of the District’s 2018-2019 budget development process.  The high school’s Leadership Team and/or the Challenge Success Team will review the feasibility of this exception list for future school years. 


In closing, we express our appreciation for our high school administrators and our high school counselors for the complex and extensive work that they do all year long for course scheduling.  Our high school administrators work tirelessly, alongside our counseling team, to ensure that both our course offerings and course scheduling best meet students’ needs. 



Geoff Yantz, Ed.D.


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