Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - November 19, 2010

Time to compromise on finals, start of school

It's hard to believe that a community with as many highly educated, intelligent people in it can't resolve the "school calendar" dilemma currently embroiling the Palo Alto Unified School District.

The proposal from the school administration is to move final exams to before winter break, thus freeing students from having to study or do special projects so they can have a "real" break. Virtually all school districts have moved or are moving in this direction, largely to remove a source of stress for students.

But to move the semester back to get finals before the break creates pressure to push the start of school earlier into August, which is unacceptable primarily to parents with children in elementary grades. Some parents want to push it the other way, returning to a post-Labor Day start of school, giving more time for study after winter break but pushing the end of school into June. Some even suggest getting rid of finals and finding some other method of measuring knowledge gleaned from a class.

One suggested solution is to have a shorter fall semester than a spring semester, which would involve cooperation from teachers.

The latter seems to us to be the best avenue for compromise all around: The district should strip out all not-absolutely-essential training or other off-days in the fall and focus on completing content before the break.

As we've said before, moving finals to before the break should be a no-brainer decision for the well-being of our over-stressed students. Then let's use our brains to figure out how to accommodate that within the fall semester.

We agree that the city should adhere to pledges made in 2008, but it's also increasingly clear that readership habits of the younger generation — and many in the older generation — are changing as fast as new technology emerges.

Collection size notwithstanding, building in flexibility to accommodate the gadgetry within the libraries is far better than seeing patrons fade away from our new buildings over time, leaving them predominantly as book warehouses guarded by a few lonely staff members.

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