News


Nearby schools: Pre-break finals no problem

M-A, Mountain View, Castilleja officials say schools adjusted easily to stress-reducing calendar shift

A change in Menlo-Atherton High School's academic calendar, shifting first-semester final exams from January to December, has been "very successful," according to Steve Lippi, instructional vice-principal at the school.

Now in its sixth year, the pre-winter-break exam schedule is popular with students, teachers and families alike, Lippi said.

"It's been a win-win situation for everybody," he said.

As Palo Alto schools consider the contentious issue of shifting their own calendars to pre-break finals, officials from neighboring high schools said they do not recall the decision being terribly controversial in their own communities.

"Parents liked the idea of having finals finished before Christmas, and I don't think the teachers minded it either," Mountain View High School spokesperson Ginny Donaldson said.

Both Mountain View and Los Altos high schools shifted their calendars more than five years ago.

In Palo Alto, Superintendent Kevin Skelly has recommended a similar switch beginning in 2011.

The Board of Education is set to take a final vote on Skelly's proposal Nov. 9.

In the meantime, board members have urged citizens to weigh in by e-mailing their thoughts to calendar@pausd.org. District officials will track the comments and summarize them prior to the board's Oct. 26 meeting.

At Menlo-Atherton, the biggest drawback to the new calendar is that the first semester is "much shorter than the second semester, typically 82 days compared to 98," Lippi said.

"However, this is only a problem for semester-long classes, such as Government and Econ. The great majority of our classes are year-long, and therefore the fact that one semester is shorter than the other works its way out by the end of the school year," he said.

Other commonly cited difficulties -- an earlier school-start date in August and stress-filled conflicts between finals and holiday music performances and other activities -- have sorted themselves out, Lippi said.

"We just have to coordinate that a little bit differently," he said, adding that holiday concerts are scheduled the week before finals.

"That last week before break was always hectic anyway, with some students leaving to travel, so we tended not to schedule a whole lot of activities during that time."

M-A students began the current school year Aug. 18, eight days ahead of Palo Alto's start date. M-A's first-semester finals will be completed by the time students are dismissed for the holidays Dec. 17.

Second semester begins Jan. 3 and ends June 3.

Skelly's recommendation to shift Palo Alto's calendar springs from a desire to give students a clean, work-free break over the holidays, Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers told the school board Tuesday, citing concerns expressed by students and research by Stanford University senior lecturer Denise Clark Pope.

For 2011-2012, Skelly's proposal calls for students to begin school Tuesday, Aug. 16, and for first-semester finals to end Wednesday, Dec. 21.

For 2012-2013, students' first day would be Tuesday, Aug. 14, and first-semester finals would conclude Friday, Dec. 21.

The 2011-2012 school year would end May 31, and the 2012-2013 school year would end May 30, under Skelly's proposal.

A survey of other school districts in Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin counties indicates a trend toward moving finals to before winter break, Palo Alto district officials said.

The number of districts with pre-break finals went from 11 out of 21 districts in 2008 to 15 in 2010.

Forty-six of the 61 high schools surveyed have pre-break finals.

Many local private schools, including Castilleja, Menlo and St. Francis, also have made the switch.

"This has been quite successful for us," Castilleja Head of School Nanci Kauffman said.

"Not only do we find that it has reduced stress for the girls, but it has also allowed us to begin second semester in January with our Global Week Program, unencumbered by the need to tie up loose ends from first semester."

At Mountain View High School, Assistant Principal Mike Mathiesen said that after a few years of working out minor kinks, the new calendar has come to be viewed as "the new normal."

"Any change always causes a little bit of, 'Whoa, what are we doing here?' It disrupts people's personal lives, and some of the opposition was responding to that," Mathiesen said.

"But I haven't heard any issues with it in the past three or four years."

Mathiesen recalled that impetus for the change came from students, and the calendar was piloted for a year by Los Altos High School before being adopted system-wide in the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District.

Performing-arts departments have attempted to schedule holiday concerts to minimize the necessity for students to miss class, he said.

But the "positive feedback" from students happy to have a work-free winter break has outweighed the other concerns, he said.

Palo Alto teachers' union representative Trina Gogarty said teachers are "willing to pilot this before-the-break finals idea."

However, teachers "are a diverse group with lots of diverse interests in the calendar." Some have expressed concerns about problems with uncomfortably hot classrooms if the school-start date is moved to the third week in August rather than the fourth week, as it is now, Gogarty said.

Tekla Nee, mother of three students in the district, told school board members Tuesday the calendar change "will require my family to make huge sacrifices with little benefit.

"This may be an experiment to you, but these are my daughter's only junior and senior year of high school. It's not an experiment to her; it's her life. Don't do this to her," Nee said.

The district's growing number of south Asian families would welcome a calendar change that included a three-week, not two-week, winter break, said Walter Hays and Jordan parent Ashima Agarwal.

"Talking with friends from the Indian and Asian communities, we often discuss how we can't go back to our countries to visit our parents in the summer because it's scorching hot," Agarwal said.

"Two weeks of winter break is not enough time to go back to India -- you can't just go there for 10 days. Our concern is just adding another week to winter vacation so we also get to see our families," she said.

Among school board members, Camille Townsend appeared to be the most openly skeptical toward the proposed calendar change. Board member Dana Tom has indicated he leans in favor of pre-break finals.

Other board members expressed confidence in the process the district has established to gather comments before making a final decision.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 1, 2010 at 9:57 pm

those school districts are not quite academically comparable to palo alto school district.the students study loads are much easier than palo alto's.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SUPPORT
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 2, 2010 at 12:02 am

^If that's your argument there are so many other "academically comparable" schools to prove you're wrong.

Statements like "other school districts aren't academically comparable to Palo Alto" make this city seem like it full of pompous individuals that consider their town infinitely superior to other places.

It seems like based on the above logic Palo Alto is too good and percect for having pre-break finals and to make such a shift would "lower our standards" to those of the common folk in other towns.

This whole argument of students using their breaks to study is just utter nonsense. I've never seen it happen and I've taken AP Calc BC, APUSH, AP Bio, AP CompSci, and AP Physics C. Nearly everyone procrastinates during the break and leaves all the studying to the bitter end. The best thing I've enjoyed at college? Not having finals after winter break. It's been a blessing and I haven't seen any other Gunn Alumni (There's 50+ of us here at Cal) say they miss having pre-break finals.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2010 at 8:51 am

@SUPPORT Q:at meanwhile have you ever done applying for ivy league schools, that is a huge load.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Enlighten Me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm

My children are not at the college application level yet. Can't kids complete most parts of the college apps in the summer?

Support: I'm guessing you meant to say that no Gunn Alumni miss having POST-break finals. So what you are saying is that students don't study during break, yet they cannot feel completely relaxed because they know they will have finals after break = stress during break.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Enlighten Me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2010 at 2:43 pm

"We can't go back to our countries to visit our parents in the summer because it's scorching hot,' Agarwal said."

I don't see that as a valid reason for a 3-week Winter Break. Not all of us have relatives in Asia, just as not all of us are religious. And if it is "scorching hot", how do they live there?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Oppose - I would venture to say the Castilleja and Menlo have study loads equal or greater to the average Palo Alto student.

3 weeks at Winter Break - there are probably more working parents who will have a tough time with child care than Asian parents who want to visit family.

Support - lots of kids don't study for finals over break, but MANY work on projects, especially for physics. And too many teachers think their class is too special to adhere to the no-homework policy.

Different length semesters - don't we "loose" a few weeks in the Spring between AP tests, Star tests and Seniors getting out a week earlier anyway? That makes the 2nd semester "shorter" than it looks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 2, 2010 at 4:28 pm

The proposed calendar for 2011-12 has 18 days of winter break. That surly is enough time to visit relatives in Asia! How many parents can take off 3 weeks from work over the holidays anyway?

My biggest concern is the earlier summer start date and the lack of air conditioned classrooms. Can't they eliminate October's Staff Development day and November's Veterans day and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and reduce minimum days so we can start later in August and still have exams before winter break?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Oops- "surely"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Gunn Parent - I think Veteran's Day is a Federal Holiday which has to be taken on the 11th. Otherwise, works for me!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2010 at 5:26 pm

4 years ago, PiE did a study comparing PAUSD to 5 other similar, high performing school districts. EVERY one of them has finals in January. 3 of the 5 start in September. None start earlier than we started this year. I wonder if we should be comparing ourselves to them rather than Menlo Atherton or Mountain View or the local private schools.

Edina
First Day 9/8
Finals 1/28-30
Last Day 6/20

Chapel Hill
First Day 8/25
Finals 1/10-13
Last Day 6/10

New Trier
First Day 8/24
Final 1/12-14
Last Day 6/4

Wellesley
First Day 9/1
Finals 1/18-25
Last Day 6/21

Scarsdale
First Day 9/8
Finals 1/18-21
Last Day 6/24



 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2010 at 6:08 pm

@paloalto mom i agree we should compare apple to apple.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another mom
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Much depends on the individual student. My child went to one of the schools mentioned in the article, took challenging courses, and is now enrolled at Stanford.

What is missing from this debate is data to measure what the *students* think and how students' stress levels would be affected. Intuitively it seems like it would be less stressful for them not to have to worry about finals over winter break. Gunn alum SUPPORT above assures us that he/she would have definitely preferred finishing first semester before the break.

Is the goal to reduce stress without compromising academic performance? What metrics should be used to analyze that? Is it worth settling for less stellar PAUSD academic scores if the student body is more emotionally healthy? What trade-offs are you willing to make to reduce student suffering and minimize tragedies such as those we experienced last year?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm

@Another mom how would you know it will definitely reduce stress level for gunn seniors if they move the final earlier. it would actually increase it if they pack too much loads into a short period of time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2010 at 6:53 pm

@PA Mom, comparing our calendar to PIE's "Fab 5" is interesting, but not sure how relevant here. Having lived in the Northeast, I can attest that you'd be hard pressed to find any schools - good, bad, or indifferent - that start in August and finish the first semester in December. I checked some random schools in Boston - all started in Sept. Boston public schools started on Sept 8(!), the traditional first Weds after Labor Day. On the other hand, you'd be hard pressed to find any schools in Florida that don't start by mid-August. Around most of the world, btw, it looks like folks start in Sept (see the Wikipedia on Academic Calendars).

I'm not sure there's a "right answer" here - it seems more like a preference or custom. Around here, the preference seems swinging toward earlier start. I'm not sure there is much value in differentiating our district by its calendar, so maybe best to just go with the flow.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another mom
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I don't know if it would reduce stress levels. Read my message again. That's why I think there needs to be some kind of data based on student input to help evaluate this decision. What would they prefer? What have students at schools that have already made the change think? There needs to be some kind of way to measure student stress and preferences in addition to school performance.

Intuitively (meaning based on my gut instinct) I think it would reduce stress. To my current high school student, it seems obvious to have finals before winter break. The point isn't to pack more work into a shorter period of time; it is to reduce work, create a true winter break, and reduce stress levels. More work does not necessarily lead to increased learning, academic success, or emotional well-being.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm

how wouldd you make us intuitvely believe that squeeze in the college applications with the final exams will decrease the stress for students? how could that possible be?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another mom
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Hopefully by winter break much of the college application work is completed. If students apply to UCs or Cal State schools, apps would be already submitted in Oct/Nov. If students apply early action to a private college, then its app and the Common App is already done by early Nov. If they still have some supplements to complete for additional private colleges, students would be able to work on them during winter break before they are due shortly after New Year's. In other words, work for college apps starts in the summer and is spread out many months until early January (based on my child's experience).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 2, 2010 at 7:30 pm

a lot of kids do not choose to apply for early action or admission because of financial reasons, they would want to try as many as possible to get financial support.the most ivy schools' application deadline is by dec.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Harvard and MIT have finals before winter break. That has nothing to do with academic standards. It is less stressful for the students.

The trade-off here is not finals before break versus starting so early in August. The trade-off is between having semesters of unequal length and starting in early August. I personally prefer the unequal semester lengths, starting later in August and ending a little earlier in December.

We should move the finals regardless, and debate about when the school year should start.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another mom
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2010 at 10:07 pm

You can check each college's application deadlines on their websites, which I just did in a few minutes. Looks like Stanford, Harvard, and Brown regular decision apps are due 1/1, Pomona College is 1/2, Caltech 1/3. The Common App is available in the summer so students can start working on it then. The supplements I believe are also available in the summer so seniors have about 5 months to work on them. In any case, having winter break free from having to study for finals frees up seniors to spend more time focusing on finishing their last college apps as the private college regular decision deadlines approach around New Year's. It's wise to apply to UCs, Cal State, and other public schools at least as safety or backup schools, and those would be done in Oct./Nov.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 2, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Most private companies do not recognize Veteran's Day as a holiday.
I don't see why PAUSD can't eliminate it for a longer summer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2010 at 8:59 am

Gunn Parent - my guess is that as a public school we have to give our staff the federal holidays off.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by katie
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:34 am

Check out this thread: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

oppose,
If the change in the calendar gives seniors a motivation to deal with their applications before the last minute, it will decrease everyone's stress and teach them a valuable lesson about planning. Applications are not like finals, they have months to do them. If our calendar ended mid-December like most of the other schools in the area that have pre-break finals, it would give the hopefully few procrastinators the chance to be done with finals and focus on getting their applications completed.

Pre-break finals will benefit all high school students, not just seniors. Seniors have months to do their applications, and many slack off on their work their last year anyway. It would be unfair not to make a healthy change for the rest of the students to accommodate last year students who are only under a deadline crunch because of procrastination.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of University South
on Oct 4, 2010 at 11:52 am

The college application process is very hectic from Sept through Dec--you can't start it earlier because the essay questions aren't posted earlier. During the fall, the students write countless essays, round up recommendation letters, transcripts, etc, etc; it's very busy, and no matter how organized your child is, it goes into December and would overlap with December finals.

And seniors are not slacking off during the fall of their senior year. They are quite aware that the grades for this semester count--and probably count more than any previous single semester.

So pre-break finals wouldn't help them. And I'd argue that it wouldn't help that many other students, for those with full-year classes who are inclined to work ahead will anyway, those that would have taken the break anyway will continue to do so. College classes with finals before break actually end, the books are sold, the teacher possibly never seen again. High school classes, for the most part, are full year classes.

I agree with the person who said we should split the early start issue from the finals before break issue and deal with them separately, we may end up with the same decisions, or not, but it's a mess trying to do any kind of reasonable cost/benefit analysis with them tied as they are right now.

It also seems counterproductive to have just one calendar on the table, with a thumbs up/thumbs down vote pending. Why can't we look at three calendars--this one, a pre-break finals/late Aug start, and a post-break finals calendar and figure out which one is best for our community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of University South
on Oct 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

PS: I also question the point of this article in general. You've asked the "officials" if parents have stopped complaining and they say yes, people have accepted the new calendar. But that's a bit of a biased sample. I polled a few parents I know in those districts and discovered that while they may have "given up" fighting this, they hate the current mid Aug start and early May dismissal and would love to have the calendar shifted back to late Aug/June.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm

THANK you Paly parent for injecting some rational thought into the discussion here. Separate the two issues: the early start/later start date from the pre-Winter Break finals agenda. At least two to three calendar proposals have been presented in past years' calendar discussions; why not now? It is vital to consider the needs of ALL children/families in the district - K through 12.

An aside: Unless you have had a senior go through the college application process, you have little to no idea how much is involved and how much time it takes. Add to the application process the increasing importance of first quarter and semester grades and perhaps you can see why many are concerned. Also please do not consider UCs and CSUs as "back-ups." Not so.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by informed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I believe we should keep the calendar the way it is. I do not believe that exams after Christmas will reduce stress - it just jams more things into the first semester. Music: MANY students perform with groups outside of the high school (Youth Symphonies, ballet programs, choral arts etc.) and these groups have their concerts BEFORE Christmas. The school district cannot change that. College apps - the majority of Paly kids attend UCs and state schools and that work has to be done by Nov. 30th. Can't compare the workload of application to private schools as the logistics of paper work and finding teachers to do recs is more time-consuming at public school. Athletics: students who play a Varsity fall sport have to come back a week or even two weeks early to get ready. Practicing football, soccer etc. in August will be REALLY hot. Finally, I do not believe that Denise Clark Pope has advocated for pre-holiday exams - she takes the approach that the stress has to be addressed from many directions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:06 pm

The current school calendar is awful! It's look like several different people, who never met, randomly set up dates for beginnings of semester, holidays, and tests. As a result, our high school kids don't get any rest during school year. The changing of this situation is necessity!
Now, my ideas how to make proposed calendar a little better:
1) Winter vacations should be 2, not 3 weeks long. Not so many families are going to visit their relatives in that particular time every year. I think, the district can give permission for a few days of absence from school to students, who can't visit their grannies at summer.
2) It is possible to remove some of so called "local holidays". Again, the district can give permission for an absence on these days to some students in respect of their religious feelings.
3) Don't do staff development days during school year.

With these changes it will be possible to free almost entire summer, thus there will be enough time as for sumer classes and for family vacations as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Good Grief!

Nearly all of the really good private High Schools in our area (Menlo, Sacred Heart, Casti) have a school year that starts later than the public schools and they manage to have semester finals before the December holiday break!

This really seems to be a no-brainer to me. What good is it go give the kids a December Vacation if they spend the whole time studying for finals? Everyone needs some stress-free downtime. Change the calendar and move on....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ag
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Oppose: I'm sorry, but I do not see how having finals before or after the winter break makes any difference to the academic quality of a school. This argument is ludicrous.

In addition, there are many excellent schools in the U.S. and in the world. One does NOT have to go to an Ivy League school to succeed in life. If success means a successful career to you, please take a look around you - what percentage of the CEOs and other highly placed executives in the U.S. graduated from Ivy League schools?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kirsten
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:28 pm

My biggest issue with the proposed calendar in Palo Alto is the fact that the winter break extends solidly into January. For families who work, trying to get child care for that first week of January will be a problem. Business culture expects office workers back at their desks at 8am sharp on that first workday of January.

And for those who quickly answer, "put the kids in camp", please know that for multiple children, that is prohibitively expensive. Finding sitters who have that kind of flexibility is very, very difficult.

This change may put children in danger.

Personally, exams before the holiday is lovely, and although I don't care for the earlier start, I can adjust. But, this week in January is a big problem.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Charlie Harrington
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 5, 2010 at 8:17 am

What a well written article!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 5, 2010 at 8:31 am

ag:

if given the choice which school do you want to go ,ivy or uc.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 5, 2010 at 8:48 am

parent,

the seniors who do not apply for private school will not be affected . look at the notes from paly parents. what if a kid decides to add on more private schools as the last year progressed on and he finds out he can have a chance in those private schools, it is a lot of work to write essay and also to request recom letters from teachers,professors, who can you find during the holidays, will the they wait for you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:36 am

i don't see the finals before winter break will provide a stress free vacation for kids. when i was in college, we don't have the luxury to shift the finals/exams whatsoever to meet our prefer schedule. this also applies to work environment.

if kids cannot handle the finals stress, parents please advise them to take less or spread out in junior/senior years. if kids cannot manage their time in high school years, i really think we as parents have fail to prepare them as a responsible adult.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

We are in the top 6 k-12 Districts in the State per our API -(Board Packet, Page 14) Web Link

EVERY school in the top 6 starts in late August or early September and has Finals in January.
EVERY school that PiE used for their nationwide comparison of top performing schools is the same, late August, early Sept start, January finals.

What do they know that we don't?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ag
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Response to "oppose" - I would be happy to a UC. What are your objections to a UC?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 5, 2010 at 12:34 pm

that is your choice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by oppose
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 5, 2010 at 12:43 pm

a good choice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Is there an actual proposed calendar to look at? Could someone provide the link?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of University South
on Oct 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Here's the link: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2010 at 10:21 pm

to PA mom/Duveneck: To answer your question, THEY probably know that correlation does not/should not imply causation.

Just as concerning - your choice of measurement. Is our "Top 6" status so precarious that a straightforward adjustment to our calendar will be our API downfall? I sure wish I knew how long it took us to climb back up from those Ski Week years...

And those 62/74 public high schools that adopted pre-Break finals? - just take a LOOK at what happened to their API scores! (Oh, whoops).

And our own students' opinions. So what if they've been weighing in - in great numbers for years. I agree we should see what our neighbors in Edina, Minnesota, Scarsdale, New York and Winnetka, Illinois have to tell us instead. (After all, Menlo Park, Atherton, Mountain View/Los Altos teens are SO not like us... )

And student health - the last measurement considered. Who compares with us?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by What's up with MA?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 8, 2010 at 5:27 am

Anyone know why Menlo Atherton High School is going to start a week later next year?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of University South
on Oct 8, 2010 at 9:41 am

M-A went to a mid-Aug start (and I think that winter break that shifted into Jan) for two years, I recall, and quietly dropped it. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all? This year, they seem to be focusing on sleep as the best way to help their high school students, and going to 8:45 a.m. start times.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Out of the Loop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Paly Parent/ Uni South: I couldn't quite follow what you were suggesting that M-A dropped? M-A follows the Sequoia District calendar - and still ends 1st semester at Winter Break.

So I'm not sure what "wasn't such a good idea after all" was referring to?

With the lone exception of THIS school year's mid-Aug start date - Sequoia District high schools have started school the third week of August or later (not mid-August). A quick comparison of the 2 districts' start dates:

'05-'06: Aug.25 (PAUSD - Aug.22!)
'06-'07: Aug.24 (PAUSD - Aug.21!) Darned Ski Week years! Where was the outrage?!
'08-'09: Aug.21 (PAUSD - 8/26)
'10-'11: Aug.18 (PAUSD - 8/25)
'11-'12: Aug.25 (PAUSD - 8/16! proposed)
(sorry for the gaps - best I could do)

Maybe you could clarify?

I agree M-A should be commended for their sleep work and late start - but Hear, Hear to your home school - PALY - for having a late start with a 7 period day! (M-A has 6 periods; if students use the zero period as a 7th, they start at 7:50 am)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2010 at 7:02 am

Oppose, the student study load at Menlo and Castilleja is likely just as heavy as at Gunn or Paly.

I'm in favor of pre-break finals to reduce student stress, but I still think the district should consider a September start, finals in late January or early February, and a mid-June end.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by not convinced
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2010 at 8:49 am

Seems there are two threads on this issue and I spent most of my time wading through the other one. The list of reasons for changing the calendar is long, but there is one reason that is irritating regarding which months are hottest and the issue of not having A/C in classrooms.

The (weather) climate in Palo Alto is about as idyllic as you can find anywhere on the planet. When it is hot, it is rarely humid. Even so, the thought that we must have A/C in schools to attend class is truly disturbing. A lot of people have managed to survive and excel(!) in hot AND humid classrooms. They have also survived traipsing through snow, ice and subzero winters. All of my extended family live in such places. I am not able to ever complain about weather to them, because my family considers Palo Alto to be paradise.

I'm not saying the comfort of A/C wouldn't be nice, but I truly hope that we are not so fragile.

Please leave this one off the list.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 11, 2010 at 9:27 am

We have great weather in Palo Alto, but our schools were not built for hot days. One of the buildings at Jordan that is used for classrooms, was not built as a classroom building at all. The rooms get to over 90 on hot days and stay that way because of lack of ventilation and insulation. There is a teacher with a health issue that can not work when the rooms get too warm or cold. So weather is really an issue.

Comparing our stress level to other public schools in the area is not really accurate. Most of the public school students apply to our public colleges, which is a much easier application process. Menlo and Castilleja are more accurate comparisons, but they also provide MUCH more support for the application process, down time during AP classes (as opposed to taking your STAR tests between AP classes, a real dead week before finals, etc.)


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2010 at 9:52 am


palo alto mom/duveneck

"4 years ago, PiE did a study comparing PAUSD to 5 other similar, high performing school districts. EVERY one of them has finals in January. 3 of the 5 start in September. None start earlier than we started this year. I wonder if we should be comparing ourselves to them rather than Menlo Atherton or Mountain View or the local private schools.

Edina

First Day 9/8

Finals 1/28-30

Last Day 6/20

Chapel Hill

First Day 8/25

Finals 1/10-13

Last Day 6/10

New Trier

First Day 8/24

Final 1/12-14

Last Day 6/4

Wellesley

First Day 9/1

Finals 1/18-25

Last Day 6/21

Scarsdale

First Day 9/8

Finals 1/18-21

Last Day 6/24



YES YES YES, these are our comparables!

You'd think these things would be considered by Skelly and board, instead they blindly following advice from the SOS challenge success who apparently have been lobbying for this for years


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2010 at 9:54 am


SOS lobbying for the calendar change that is, and on a theory that it would reduce stress, when it's just as likely to increase stress


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2010 at 11:01 am

Hot days - as a comparison

When our weather gets hot, our libraries close because it is too hot for the staff to work.

When our weather gets hot, our teachers have to bring in fans from home, spray bottles, and the teachers and kids work in hot, stuffy classrooms.

Our hot weather can occur at any time from April to November.


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