JUST IN: School starts one week later next year, then inches toward Labor Day, LAUSD decides
Mike Szymanski | September 20, 2016
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The LA Unified school board decided Tuesday night to start school one week later next year, moving the start date to Aug. 22, then to Aug. 28 the following year.
After passionate debate on both sides, five school board members voted for the change, and two voted against it.
The number of days of instruction remains at 180. But the Thanksgiving break will be reduced next year to three days, instead of the whole week off, as students have had the past four years. Winter break will also be cut, from three weeks to two weeks. Unassigned days, such as for Jewish holidays, will not change.
Overall, it falls short of the initial proposal spearheaded by board member Richard Vladovic to move the start of the school year to after Labor Day, which he has tried four separate times but was out-voted. He seemed satisfied with a compromise of inching toward Labor Day over the next two school years.
But Superintendent Michelle King made it clear that school cannot start after Labor Day because a full semester could not be completed before winter break.
“The next school year will be August 22 and the subsequent year school will start August 28, which is the week before Labor Day, and the first semester will conclude before winter break,” King said.
Student board member Karen Calderon won some applause from the audience when she explained how her peers didn’t want the calendar to change because it affects their college exams.
“The three-week difference may not seem so large, but to do that before the AP exam will have a negative effect for so many students,” Calderon said. “By changing the start date you are limiting our future and limiting our success, and I am against starting after Labor Day.”
Nevertheless, Calderon voted for the compromise. Her vote is an advisory vote.
The board also voted against concerns and pleas from two labor leaders, Letetsia Fox of the California School Employees Association representing classified employees and Juan Flecha from the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles representing administrators and principals.
“Our simple and clear message on behalf of the vast majority is to tell the board to stick to their initiative and asking to continue the calendar of the last five years,” said Flecha, who represents nearly 3,000 administrators. Their own survey said that 87 percent wanted an August start date and 40 percent wanted no change.
Fox was concerned that the change in schedule could affect the number of days employees work, as many cannot afford to lose work time.
Daniel Jocz, the 2016 California State Teacher of the Year from Downtown Magnets High School, tweeted out “as someone who has worked hard to build a successful AP program, this is bad news for LAUSD students.”
That Twitter note got to board member Monica Garcia, who read it to the other board members and said, “I’m against it and concerned about whatever comes next.” She said that academic gains and increased graduation rates could be due in part to the calendar year starting earlier.
“We have not seen the evidence that we should roll this back,” Garcia said. “We are going to spend money to roll this back and adjust it. I have heard from angry parents to stop changing your mind.”
Garcia pointed out that the calendar was originally changed when many elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley wanted to become charters or affiliated charters to move their start dates earlier in August. Instead, the district changed the calendar.
“Everybody got used to it and it is most aggravating that people are not clear what is happening,” Garcia said. “I am so concerned and I will leave it on the board that they have their families’ interest.”
In past surveys and telephone input from teachers and parents, they said they wanted to start after Labor Day, but they also said they wanted the semester to end before winter break, which can’t both happen because there aren’t enough school days.
Vladovic and board member Scott Schmerelson said parents in their communities and neighborhood councils have asked for the more traditional school start, like they do in Chicago and New York. The board members also said they were concerned about the cost of air-conditioning expenses and energy costs in the hotter earlier start of the school year.
Board member George McKenna said that he thought children were being robbed of their summers.
“We’re taking away the summer from these kids,” McKenna said. “I’m still in favor of moving it closer to Labor Day. We’re not doing this to the students, but for the students.”
Board President Steve Zimmer was concerned that the compromise does not affect the classified employees and that King address the concerns that the student school board member has about enough counseling and time for AP tests. He appreciated King’s willingness to compromise.
Board member Ref Rodriguez said there needs to be more data if the calendar affects achievement. He voted for the compromise change in the calendar. Monica Ratliff voted against the changes without comment.