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Touchy school calendar issue is back

Original post made on Oct 21, 2013

The hot-button issue of school calendars returns to the Board of Education Tuesday, Oct. 22, as members must vote before year's end on timetables that will influence family vacations for 2014-15 and beyond.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, October 21, 2013, 9:23 AM

Comments (67)

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2013 at 9:38 am

This was never a "new" calendar or a done deal. It was a two year pilot.

I hope that they are taking into account input from sport coaches, music and drama teachers as to how their programs have been affected.

I hope they also look into how a May end to the school year affects sport.

I hope they also remember that we have so far experienced one Winter break when the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was as long as it could be compared with the upcoming holiday season when Thanksgiving is as late as it can be and the "holiday period" will be much shorter to fit everything in.

My kids are practically done and at this stage I don't think I have the energy any more to take part in late night school board meetings. Good luck to all of you who are still in the game.

Posted by Old Timer?, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2013 at 10:17 am

What happened to kids getting a real education, having to go to school from homeroom at 7:30-8:00am and class until 3:30 followed by sports/music practice? School went from about the week before Labor Day on with a few small breaks. Let's not stress kids out by making them attend school and go to PE. We wouldn't want to stress them out by making them go to Disneyland or Tahoe in July/late December. No wonder it's hard to find a young adult willing to work a 5-day, 40-hour job.

Posted by Not happening, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2013 at 10:27 am

I can tell you right now, teachers are not going to give a standalone unit after December finals. That will never work. They will simply have the final in January.

It happened before with the alleged homework-free winter break--teachers would make excuses. "Oh, this is an honors class, it doesn't count." "Oh, this project is due the Tuesday after break, not Monday, so it doesn't count." "Oh, you're a junior, it doesn't count." And so on. The only way to enforce a homework free break is to place the end of the first semester before winter break.

Schooling is for the students--not for parents and their preferred vacation times. They know that this is working better than the January-finals/January-end-of-semester did, because they're the ones who have to deal with the consequences. We should be listening to the fact that the students prefer an early start with the semester ending at Winter Break, as stated above.

Posted by High School Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 21, 2013 at 11:13 am

An interesting point revealed by the appendixes to the report (downloadable from the board web site), is in the detailed breakdown of work over break. While overall work done by students over break declined significantly last winter vs the winter before, by far the biggest drop was in "group projects" This change wasn't triggered by calendar change, but by a change in policy requiring that all work on group projects be conducted in class.

This just shows that the calendar doesn't have a huge impact on the "work-free break" that is seen as the most desirable attribute of placing finals before break, so maybe it's not the main thing to worry about.

Concerning the other comment, if "finals week" and its testing scheduled is in Dec and not in January, it would be hard for teachers to schedule anything more than a unit test in January. And I would think that teachers would be willing to give this approach a "2-year experiment" If we stop all experimentation at this point with one version of a test, then we were kidding ourselves to call it an experiment. No scientist just runs one version of an experiment to test a theory.

Posted by Need Change, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Oct 21, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I'm not at all happy with this "New" calendar.
Is it at all possible to have the "Old" calendar for the elementary and middle schools and the "New" for the High Schools?

I completely understand the changes made for the High School students and there new found "overwhelming stress", but my children are in elementary school and this "new" calendar does not appease my family at all.

What has changed in the last hand full of years that has made these students so "stressed" anyway? The city needs to look further into this matter because I personally think it's a bunch of BULL.
You work hard and get what you deserve. If you don't make it, don't reflect on yourself as a failure, try harder next time.
Not everyone can be a genius and there are only so many college acceptance letters mailed out for a reason.


Posted by interested mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I have casually surveyed many parents (and asked a few high school students, as well).
The most consistent thing that I have heard is that group projects are the Number ONE stressor, followed by other large projects. The timing of assigning these projects is entirely within teacher control.

Many families I queried said that their students never studied anxiously over Winter Break for finals under the old calendar. It was always assigned projects over the break that were demanding. Their students wouldn't really start studying for exams until returning to school in January. For students who were struggling a bit in class, Winter Break actually gave them a chance to catch up. That catch-up time is now gone.

If the NO HOMEWORK policy over breaks was actually enforced, then continuing the semester into January would not be a problem.

I think the strident desire for everything to end before the break creates the impression that cramming for an exam and then subsequently forgetting what you just learned is the way to go. What about the novel idea that maybe if you TRULY LEARNED something you should be capable of retaining it for a few weeks?

If no new material is assigned over the break, no homework, no projects, then returning to a couple of weeks of school followed by and exam idoes not have to be a problem. In fact, in the long term this will promote true comprehension and retension of the material.

Of course, teachers have to cooperate with their scheduling. And there should be consiquences for those who don't.

Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm

To "Need Change", as an elementary school student parent, you may think high school stress is a bunch of "BULL", in your words,but wait until your kids get to high school and you may change your mind. I have had three kids graduate from Palo Alto High School, two under the old calendar and one under the new. All of my kids regularly studied until 1AM and sometimes until 4AM. My oldest, the most organized of the three, had several all-nighters during winter break completing homework, especially term papers, while he was also completing college applications. My youngest, who graduated last year, at least did not have homework to compete with college applications, so did not share his oldest brother's experience.BTW, I did not know about the rule of completing group projects only during school because I can tell you that definitely was not the case last year at least in AP classes.Also, with regard to stress, my kids personally knew four students who committed, or made a serious attempt to commit, suicide and many, many of their friends are on anti-anxiety medication. This simply cannot be dealt with with a comment to "get over it".

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

@Need Change - I've had 2 kids go through Paly and it is a stressful place. Mostly kids simply do not have enough hours in their day to go to school, play a sport, perform extracurricular activities and complete hours of homework. This is not new in the past few years, but is different from how most of us spent our high school years. As far as your comment "not everyone can be a genius and there are only so many college acceptance letters mailed out for a reason" is not allowed to be true in Palo Alto where the only plan for after high school is college and the only reason for high school is to build a resume for college.

I agree that there is no real reason to have the same schedule for elementary and high school, nut we are a Unified School district and I suspect the teacher's union would need to approve it.

@Interested Mom - I agree that if teachers would simply follow the guidelines set out by the School Board, many things would work better. But teacher's don't "with their scheduling". And there can't "be consiquences for those who don't" because of teacher unions.

Posted by Old School, a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Elementary, middle and high schools should have the same schedule. There are many families who will have kids in elementary/middle school and high school simultaneously. I am sure they would like to take their vacations together as a family rather than have to split up.

Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I don't think that anyone could argue with the statement that our high-school students experience a significant amount of stress. This should be one of the primary factors that the Board considers when they decide on a calendar. I wasn't thrilled about my kids starting school so early but I quickly changed my mind when I saw my daughter get a complete break from schoolwork over winter vacation. This wouldn't have happened had the semester ended after break. My daughter would have assignments hanging over head that she would have had to address during the vacation. Everyone needs a real vacation from work, especially our PAUSD high-school students. Most of the secondary schools in the area, both public and private, have all moved to have the first semester end before winter vacation in order to give kids a real break. I would be shocked and outraged if the school board insists on taking us backwards and is unable to continue to offer my kids a real work-free break with the semester ending before winter vacation. A winter vacation free from schoolwork means fewer burned-out students, something which we could really use in this district.

Posted by sergi, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 21, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I must assume that the vigorous opposition to the 'new' calendar has to do with conflicting summer vacation plans in August, or that the 'new' calendar "does not appease my family at all". I assume this because I really have not read here, or elsewhere, any substantive reason to keep the old finals after winter break schedule. Lots of griping about the 'new' calendar, but again, no substantive reason(s) why it's so bad. When I wen to high school and college, fall classes ended before winter break, and low and behold, I enjoyed significant down time during winter break, and the earth kept spinning! My friends who had other schedules loathed winter break with finals looming when it ended.

Posted by MyVote, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2013 at 9:44 pm

The only change the school calendar needs is to have a start time of 9:00am. Kids are staying up late doing homework, so an extra hour of sleep would be nice.

Posted by Sunshine, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I think the calendar is not a good idea. Starting school in August is a bad idea. It cuts away the end of summer and a major national holiday. It would not be difficult to end the term before the holiday break if there were not so many days off during the term.
What happened to running school from right after Labor Day until the day before thanksgiving, then from the Monday after thanksgiving until a couple if days before Christmas? There would be far fewer problems if the winter week off were also abolished. There is no need for a ski week in the middle of a term.

Posted by Stanford mom, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 21, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I would really appreciate it if PAUSD would consider having their school calender somewhat in sync with the Stanford calender. This would make planning vacations and childcare much more straightforward for the many PAUSD parents who work at Stanford. My HS was on a quarter system; perhaps this is something PAUSD could consider as well.

Posted by Opar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm

I find the early disruptive and "off"--it's hot for one thing, which means either hot classrooms or higher energy costs with A/C if available. The December finals means balancing study and stress with a large number of holiday activities for many kids.

As for Paly and stress--that seems to be tied directly to the number of honors and AP courses taken times the number of sports played and years spent learning an instrument. I've known a couple of parents who kept their kids (who qualified) out of the top lane of math because of the stress and homework levels. Yes, kids in question graduated and went to good colleges.
Yes, this is recent.

Continue the ban on group projects, limit vacation "homework" to reading and bring back a January dead week followed by finals.

And add me to the list of people who'd love to see "ski week" dropped. An extra week of summer is infinitely more valuable. A second Winter break is a nuisance for anyone who has to deal with childcare. Also an extra week of Summer means time to focus on those absurdly important extra-curriculars at a time when there's no homework.

Posted by fight like hell , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:26 am

We're almost done, and the last years are all about school anyway. But our life would have been completely different if we had not had August K-8. Childhood is only once.

if I were Elementary and Middle School parents I would fight like hell to not lose my regular summer, for a HS technicality.

Surveys seem to be the big thing. Get your directories out, Survey Monkey and give people a chance to say what they really think. Ask in several ways. Allow for honesty. The official surveys were rigged to say, yes we like no work during finals therefore we like the new calendar.

Posted by fight like hell , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:29 am

SORRY meant to say, "yes we like no work during winter break, therefore we like the new calendar"

that is what the official survey forced me to say, it was rigged


DItto what you had to say

Posted by a parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:59 am

Whatever happens, please keep finals before the break.

I love having a two week winter break that is reliably two weeks (is that different?)

I love the early end to school. Is it even an option to have a longer summer and start later in August? If not, then I like this new calendar better than the old even so.

What about keeping the calendar with the new changes, but just bringing the high schoolers back a little earlier than the other kids? Isn't it just high school teachers mostly worried about uneven semesters? Or what about even just bringing high schoolers who want to back a week early to work on college applications in a workshop setting where they get help so they're mostly done before school starts? (Don't know how realistic it is, but it's an idea...)

Posted by Gunn Grad , a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 5:45 am

Yes! Another calendar discussion! It's nice how things don't change in Palo Alto, I was starting to get worried.

PS I work in a district with finals before break (5th year now). Our students show no ill effects from the change but, more importantly, the parents have still found time for summer vacations.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:29 am

@Sunshine - except for Thanksgiving, there are only 3 days off between the start of school in August and Winter Break, Labor Day, Veteran's Day and one Staff Development Day.

There is no "Ski Week" and there hasn't been for years. There is a long weekend in February, but there are more days in the second semester anyway.

My kids are done with PAUSD, but I hated starting school in August, period.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:48 am

At the time of the last discussions, staff were asked by the board to investigate the possibilities of trimesters and very uneven semesters.

I wonder if this was ever done and if there will be a report about it tonight? Something tells me no.

It seems there is a very blinkered either/or and no innovative solutions.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:11 am

@Paly Parent - last I heard, the idea of trimesters would need buy-in from the teacher's union because it would require reworking lesson plans. (When my kids were in elementary school in PAUSD, they had trimesters, but no grades.) Same issue with the uneven semesters, for year long classes, that wouldn't be too much of a problem, but for semester long classes, there could be a significant difference in the material covered. Again, that probably needs union buy-in.

We're not a particularly innovative district since we generally don't need to be.

Posted by Father of Five, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:22 am

I have 4 children in the PAUSD district (elementary to Paly) and one child at private high school. The private school starts at the end of August, has more holidays, a shorter school day (yes, a later start time) and is still able to have finals before the winter break- and ends the school year in late May. How can private schools can make it happen? Is PAUSD restricted by union rules- do the teachers need to work a certain amount of days? If it's a union contract can we get the teachers the same amount of hours by extending the school day by 20 minutes- that would cut over 2 weeks of school off the calendar. I know all my children would vote for that- and the teachers probably would also.

Posted by Middle School Parent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:34 am

Not so long ago, when I was an elementary school parent, I might have complained about changing the schedule to start earlier in the summer. As the parent of an 8th grader, I have seen the pressure steadily ramp up beginning in 6th grade. My child, a high achieving perfectionist, desperately needs the breaks in the calendar to be restored and get a respite from the unrelenting pressure of school. Seeing how this time off is needed as a middle schooler, I can imagine how much more important it will be as a high schooler.

Another lesson I learned from observing middle schoolers is that the students have their own ingrained culture about high achievement. Even if teachers tell them to relax or to wait to study, they will not if they know exams are coming right after the break. Currently, the teachers encourage the students to use late passes when they need to alleviate stress, but the student culture is the opposite - they don't use them as advised.

There is no way to eliminate stress for high schoolers, but it can be eased a bit by keeping finals before Winter Break.

Posted by stress starts at home, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:41 am

"My child, a high achieving perfectionist, desperately needs the breaks in the calendar to be restored and get a respite from the unrelenting pressure of school."
Sounds like something you should be fixing and not relying on a school calendar change for it.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:43 am

Father of Five - PAUSD is required to have 180 days of school and I think any change in the instruction time during the school day would require the approval of the union. In addition to flexibility, private schools have the advantage of being able to choose their students and get rid of them if they are misbehaving. I suspect that the higher level classes could easily cover their material more quickly because all the kids are on task. The lower level classes would take more time simply because of classroom management issues...

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:45 am

@stress starts at home - if your kids is a perfectionist, that is their personality, not a parenting issue. Starting about 4th grade or so, the kids are pretty competitive - even those without competitive pushy parents. I would guess that the Terman population is a fairly competitive group of students.

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:46 am

To "stress starts at home": people are born with their personalities - you can't just tell a super Type A person to "chill out." That's easy Psychology 101. Who should "chill out" are some of the rigorous teachers with the attitudes that their students are going to learn this stuff inside and out even if it isn't their interest in life. It's the overly rigorous teachers who cause the stress for our students. Not all teachers have excessive workloads, but when your child has many of them combined, it's insane. In my experience, however, (2 children currently at Paly)the majority of Paly teachers do care about the well-being of their students and are willing to help.

We love the additional breaks in the school year - staff development days, President days. It does give our children time to relax. The early release in May is fantastic too. And the finals before Winter Break was the best. I haven't seen my senior so relaxed as he was this last Winter Break with no finals to return to. As far as college apps, seniors must start their personal essays in the summer.

Elementary school parents don't understand how the schedule can alter high school student stress. Why did they move here? For the ACADEMICS, therefore, our schedule should revolve around the most important academic years of our children. Vacations can be taken in May, June or July or during the school year. Missing days of elementary school is harmless; missing days from middle or high school is exceedingly stressful upon return.

Posted by PAUSD High School Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

There is a way to reduce stress for high school level students. Stop asking them to do COLLEGE level work.

They are in high school. Give them age appropriate assignments. They will still work hard and learn a lot, but they will be less stressed.

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

Completely agree, some of the regular lanes teach from college textbooks. My children have learned more from the teachers who give an appropriate amount of schoolwork. When there is too much schoolwork from one teacher, they study and regurgitate, not really learning the subject, plus they stress.

We only had Winter and Spring Break back in the 70-80s in PAUSD but the workload was easier so we didn't really need extra days off during the school year to recuperate.

Posted by fight like hell, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:43 am

We're on our way out, but younger parents, FIGHT LIKE HELL

Get your summers back, and let your kids be kids instead of running your entire family by a HIGH SCHOOL ACADEMIC calendar.

Everyone was willing to compromise to start school later in August except for the English department I think. And the teacher's union needs to back them.

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:52 am

"Fight like Hell, elementary parents"? Then they will be complaining like Hell when their children reach high school! There is still summer vacation, it's just shifted. Why do people demand to have August for summer vacation? What's wrong with May, June, July? And why do elementary students NEED summer vacation so much? Their school year is an entire playdate.

Posted by love it, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

Having a real Winter Break without having to ask "have you done your homework?" has been fantastic. I don't like school starting in August either, but it's vastly superior to coming back to exams and papers after a fake vacation. Most colleges have a true Winter Break, and I hope we keep ours.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm

What's wrong w/ May, June and July?

If you're in financial services or financial function, then you would know that you can't take a vacation from late June through the end of July. 1/2 year, quarter-end reporting.

Best summer weather is...August. Ever plan a beach vacation in May, June through most of July? Fog. Even in San Diego.

If you're a Stanford type (we're not), then you're school year doesn't end until mid-June...and you don't start until late September. Lots of Gunn families are affected by this.

So glad we didn't have to deal with this.

Posted by stress starts at home, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Interesting responses "we can't do anything, it's their personality". Sorry, that doesn't cut it. YOU need to do more work to reduce the stress. Insist your child reduces the number of courses they take. Insist they drop "high cost" courses requiring lots of group work. YOU and they do have a choice. YOU can make a difference, don't give up.

Posted by Big surprise you are from Crescent Park, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Guess what has caused our kids most stress in December - the holidays!!!!

Those in arts have concerts, recitals, extra practices. There are parties, grandparent visits, church commitments, end of year sports parties, class presentations, dinners, family commitments. December is busy because of Christmas. Sorry, Christmas just isn't going to move to January to just suit those school calendars. Sorry about that. January is dead month, no social activities. Great time to get back to studying. My kids never studied on Winter break. Never had much time in Winter Break for meeting with friends either because guess what - friends were busy with SAT prep classes or ski trips.

The only kids who worked over winter break were those whose parents made them - subtly or directly.UCxKd

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm

@stress starts at home - the parent that posted has a child in MIDDLE school. You can't "reduces the number of courses or drop "high cost" courses requiring lots of group work. You can't drop classes at all.

Another source of stress for my kids has been disorganized teachers and inconsistency, for example, planning a test, then changing the date after most of the students have been prepared.

@Paly Parent - I don't know what age your kids are, but until a couple years ago there was a big physics project that the kids had to work on over Winter Break. It was a group project and break was the only time the kids could get together. People would actually cancel their plans for breaks so the project could get done.

Posted by High School Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm

@palo alto resident. Indeed, that Physics project ruined breaks for many--and led to the "no group projects outside of class" policy. That's what created a"work free break", not calendar change. @palyparent, agreed, that 3-day weekend in Jan was a perfect time to focus on studying for finals. the thick of the holiday season, not so much. And who knew that the calendar change would cause such an overpacked May, May was insane this past spring, let's at least move the end of school back to sometime in June.

And also agreed that many of us working parents can't take time off in June or early July--the time we can take a real vacation is August. It would be nice to have these real vacations with our kids.

Posted by stress starts at home, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Wow, it's even more enlightening. If my child is stressed, I'm telling them to drop something. If they subsequently have a problem with a teacher because of it, I'd be telling them to ask the teacher to talk to me.
It's my child and my decision. The fact that you're wringing your hands and saying you can't do anything is, frankly, astonishing.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:47 pm

@stress start at home -you can't drop classes in middle school.

Posted by Big surprise you are from Crescent Park, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:48 pm

killjoy. Humor, try it some time. It's fun.

Posted by anony, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm

We're stuck with the new calendar for another year and a half. It's a democracy and the anti-stress, no homework crowd won this battle. They bullied the school board into these changes. Let's honestly evaluate how this goes and have an open mind to going back to the old calendar if this new calendar wasn't the cure to stress, youth suicides, etc.

Posted by High School Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 22, 2013 at 2:07 pm

@anony. Actually the new calendar was a 2 year trial that is about to wrap up. The board has to pick a calendar for the next 2-3 years

Posted by tail wagging the dog, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

The sports programs should adjust to the school calendar. Not vice versa. Winter Break is not a break with exams/projects/papers hanging over our heads.

Posted by stress starts at home, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm

@palo alto resident, It is quite sad you really don't believe you can not do anything to reduce the work load on your child in middle school.
It is time for you to take a stand. You can empower your child to make the right choices. You don't need the school calendar to change. YOU CAN DO THIS.

Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I'm a minority here, but my opinion (which means nothing because I graduate this year and so it won't affect me) is that post-break finals are better. Pre-break finals result in unit tests the week before review week (I think I had 3 tests and 2 quizzes lst year?) and I assure you that studying for 3 weeks straight for 6-7 classes is more stressful than post-break finals. We used to have 2-3 weeks to review after Break: now we jump right in to the next unit and have less final-studying-time before break.
Regarding the finals surveys, I think that all years which had the Rube Goldberg project should be discounted because it and the stress which came with it are gone. Look at the students taking lower-lane physics (I think they dodged the project?) and see how stressed they were. I'm under the impression that lots of kids always plan to study over break but never do (that's what I do). Even before pre-break finals, I had no work over Winter Break.

Posted by Not Happening, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 4:10 pm

@Stress starts at home - You can empower your kid to make the right choices, but Palo Alto Resident is right--there's not much you can do in middle school. There's only one laned class (math), and while you can encourage your child to take electives that have little homework (art instead of a language, for instance), it's going to hurt you later when you need to take a foreign language into junior or senior year. What is the right choice--putting off the work until later, or tackling it now when you have free time? Or you can teach your child that you can complain to teachers and skip homework because it is the "right thing" sometimes. I'm not sure that will fly in the workplace or college, though.

The problem is that for every parent who wants less homework, you have two parents demanding more so that their child can get into Stanford or an Ivy. I saw some comment above that everyone can't win, and that's true--but of course, you child still has to win, don't they? And we can't run our lives around the parents that work in the financial sectors and their schedules, because don't plenty of people have other schedules that would work well with the May-to-mid-August vacations? Most engineers don't have to worry about it; teachers in neighboring districts and SJSU professors have May-to-mid-August vacations; the medical and legal fields don't have to worry about it.

Regardless, I stand by my previous statement. Education is for the kids, not for their parents and their preferrred vacation times. Most schools in the area are on this program, so we can't say that they're missing out on hanging out with friends in neighboring communities. The high school students clearly prefer it. Teachers thing it is working better. I'd say it's a rousing success.

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm

@stress starts at home -

We are talking about another parent's middle school child. Parents and students have even less control over their classes in middle school than in high school. If you don't take a high enough lane of math in middle school, you are behind when you start high school (most kids are expected to complete Algebra in 8th grade, or at least that is the perception). If you don't take a language in middle school, again, you are a year behind in high school. If your child doesn't do all their homework, their grades will drop (homework is a huge part of your grade in both middle and high school). In math, science and languages, you need a certain grade in 8th grade to get into the lane you want in high school.

Not as many choices as you would think. BTW - my kids are in college, where they actually are "empowered to make their own choices"

Posted by stress starts at home, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm

YOU just gave a list of choices. If your child is too stressed out taking a high lane, they SHOULD be taking a lower lane. Who is forcing them to take the higher lane? YOU!
The #1 stress on kids in high-school is from PARENTS! Your responses so far have shown that those survey results are correct. You do have a choice, give the same to your children.

Posted by DuvMom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I love Stress Starts at Home.... My thoughts exactly. My favorite is all the PA parents shaming the stress our kids feel and then constantly talking about all of the high lane/AP classes they are taking. Recently, I heard a parent lament that their child decided not to continue in a specific sport after all the time and money wasted. Really?? No child should be in an AP class unless they got an easy/stress free A+ in the regular level. I have found most PA parents to be all talk.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent - ONLY ONE MORE YEAR!!!!, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 22, 2013 at 7:16 pm


CONSISTANCY FOR ALL STUDENTS IF VITAL. Both parents in our household grew up with the same calendar (the same one PA has 2012 - 2014) for 13 years of K-12 education. We had wonderful summer holidays and excellent school years!


CHEERS TO 2014-2016 CALENDAR THE SAME AS 2012-2014!!!!!!!

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 7:22 pm

As far as I know, there are no problems with sports schedules and the current early start academic calendar. First (allowed) day of practice was August 16. I think the only disadvantage was that before the calendar change, most fall sports team had a week of practice before classes started...which allowed 2-a-day workouts, etc.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 7:24 pm

@ Palo Alto Parent - ONLY ONE MORE YEAR!!!!

Um, you are clearly thinking about yourself and your family by stating your wishes for your winter vacation to work towards your vision.

I would say that everyone is thinking for themselves - on both sides of the argument.

Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 22, 2013 at 7:25 pm

It is a horrible shame that the Physic's Class at Paly does not have the Rube Goldberg Project!!!!! It was a wonderful experience for our student who loved to problem solve with their brain and hands, build 3D, work in a group with other like minded and active 'learners'. Their Project worked many, many times; they even video taped it!!!!

There isn't enough creativity, artistic, 3D learning going on in any school these days. Everyone thinks 'computer science' is the best thing since sliced white bread!

Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 22, 2013 at 7:33 pm

@Crescent Park Dad

True, I am thinking about our family. However, I am not alone.

It's 2013 and we went to school in the 60's and 70's. Besides in many USA state schools, their calendars have stayed the same since the 50's, 60's, etc!!! It doesn't change because a 'small group' of adults 'petitions', 'harrasses', 'calls', 'personally visits' the District Office, the various School Administrators and the School Board to have a variety of different religious holidays honored (not on the Federal or State Calendars), and to ignore the Federal and State Calendar Holidays; besides thinking about ALL the Students, Teachers and Administrators who deserve a real Holiday!

Posted by Palo Verde Parent, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I was watching the school board meeting on this topic and was interested in the conversation about school starting after Labor Day. The point was made that fall athletics/practices would then start about 3 weeks before the first day of school. I think this would be a big problem. I found it very interesting that people are arguing about wanting August for "family" and "vacation" time then say how great it would be to be back in town for sports practice. Seems to me you can't have it both ways. If you value August for family/vacation time, then why is it ok to have to be here for sports teams. Also, if it is okay for sports teams, then soon we will see mandatory Band practice, cheerleading practice etc..

Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm

@ stress starts at home - when my kids (now in college) were in middle school, the teachers chose the lane, not the parents or the students. And most kids want to be in the top lane that they are qualified for. By the time you are in middle school, its peer pressure, not parent pressure that drives choices.

Posted by Big surprise you are from Crescent Park, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Boy get the popcorn and turn on the meeting, watching MBC and CT try to oppose 88% of students, teachers, and parents on the calendar is pretty fun. Super desperate! Maybe we can have pre-break finals but keep the semester going until January. This is so funny. Plus little Heidi is the swing vote and that's also super entertaining.

I am pretty sure they are going to do something wacked out like that -- keep the semester where it is with some kind of weird one unit thing, so that the French Vacation friends who donated heavily to their campaigns can have what they want -- and then the vast majority of parents will be enraged. Who wants butter and salt on that?!

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:26 pm

How would trimesters help with stress? Finals and grades three times a year instead of twice = 50% more stress.

Posted by Big surprise you are from Crescent Park, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Mr. Recycle are you expecting Camille to make sense?

Posted by Gunn / Terman Parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:39 pm

The new calendar is out of sync with its neighborhood and reality. DOes it sync with any Stanford families, NO. Does it sync with sports teams, drama, band, debate, travel, NO. Does it sync with the real world that works in June and has a light schdl in Aug, NO. Does it sync with single parents forced to hire daycare for their K-8 / MS kids while they go back to work the first wk of Jan, NO. Does it sync with the global village that PA is very much a part of , NO.
All this could be avoided with a Trimester Approach. Anyone over 30 grew up going to school after Labor Day and getting out in Mid June and it worked fine. It was not broken, why in the PAUSD's wisdom they need to fix a problem that didnt exist? Say NO to powerful school teachers unions and bring back the proven trimester approach --- seems to work for that little school down the road called Stanford !

Posted by Big surprise you are from Crescent Park, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Stanford starts the third week in September and ends the third week of June. Is that what you want? Is that the calendar you want to sync with?

There is no big rock candy mountain, people.

The big idiocy of this is how dysfunctional the board is. Why don't they ever vote on anything? How can they give Scott Bowers (who did a great job, actually, managing that band of crazies on the committee) "direction" without voting? Kevin Skelly tried to count votes but that didn't work.

The only question is how Heidi will vote. She of course said nothing that made any sense, just rambled and mumbled. So when the vote finally happens, it will all come down to Heidi. Good luck with that.

Posted by Mr.Recycle, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 23, 2013 at 2:16 am

Did both Camille Townsend and Melissa Baten Caswell actually argue tonight to keep finals before Christmas, but still extend the semester into January? Really?! That lack of clear thinking really scares me - how are they elected? I fear for the children...

Posted by me me meee, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 23, 2013 at 2:28 am

Is the calendar in synch with its neighbor schools - i.e. all high schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties? - yes.

Does it make sense that PAUSD sporting events and debate competitions would synch with the 100% of other school districts that have similar calendars? yes.

Do most SC and SM county elementary districts synch up with their high school districts? Most of them actually do.

And might Stanford families or Silicon Valley workers reside in Mtn. View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, etc...that is, outside Palo Alto, too? Do their children attend schools with similar calendars to ours? Yes they do.

Does the global village or the "real world" start and end at the border of Palo Alto? Hardly.

Tired of hearing what worked a generation ago - there is no comparison. More curious than ever to learn about the true effects of this calendar from the real-life experiences of PA students, parents and teachers (and neighboring communities) - Board and public willing.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2013 at 11:29 am

Minor nit: sports schedules/seasons/start & end dates are coordinated through CIF-CCS. School districts have input but the CIF has the final word. The fall dates of competition are based upon number of weeks and where the two major holiday breaks (Thanksgiving & Winter Break) fall. For example, the water polo season is set with the intention that the final weekend of competition falls on the Saturday before Thanksgiving...etc.

I'd leave sports out of the argument because the activity has no real bearing on the academic calendar in the end.

Posted by mom of 11th grade student, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 23, 2013 at 11:49 am

My kid will graduate next year, so please keep the current calendar till then. PLEASE. It is very nice to have a real vacation get away during the Winter Break. I listened to a wonderful Po Bronson presentation who said that kids need these absolute down time to rejuvenate. I know what works for my kid and the current calendar works. I don't care when the students get their down time breaks between school years as long as they get solid four weeks to recoup from year to year. Frankly, summer breaks are too long, we are not an agrarian community in Palo Alto that needs their kids to harvest the land. I would cut summer breaks by half and have a month off from almost Christmas to almost the end of January.

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