Parents seek reconsideration of 2012-13 school calendar Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Nov 29, 2011 at 10:02 am
An organization of Palo Alto parents is urging its members to write letters or turn out at tonight's meeting of the Board of Education to seek reconsideration of Palo Alto's academic calendar for 2012-13.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 29, 2011, 9:52 AM
Posted by Give It a Chance, Already!, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 11:05 am
This dog in the manger, I did not get my way focus is just so tiresome. Please give the new calendar a chance! There must be some reason that dozens of districts around us have adopted it. And you may not have high school students yet, but you WILL. I do now, I can promise that the stress levels over breaks are astronomical with the current calendar.
Please, just give this a chance! Flex. Deal with change. Try to help our older kids.
And August is statistically not NOT HOTTER than other months so the whole stifling classroom thing is ridiculous.
Posted by Mom of 3, a resident of the Leland Manor/Garland Drive neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 11:18 am
With all due respect, this is a serious issue, and does deserve continued scrutiny.
As a mother of two high school students, I can assure you that they very much prefer the current schedule -- which is not at all stressful for the high school students during the Winter Break (there is no need to study for finals, which don't start until 2 weeks after the end of break!)
They are dreading the change to having finals before break -- which basically would mean that they'd be studying NOW (and for those who claim they currently study over Winter Break, that means they would have been studying over the Thanksgiving holiday).
This is going to pile work on high schools students at a very stressful time (early December) -- when there are a lot of other things also going on -- including finalizing college applications for Seniors (most of which are due at the end of December/January 1).
The Board recognized that there would be issues with this calendar, and asked for some detailed plans to deal with those issues. The document that they just received doesn't have detailed plans (just denials of any issues) -- and that's a real problem.
It is really critical that we listen to the high school students themselves -- particularly those that have just gone through the process of college applications (last year's graduates). There were some very articulate students who spoke at the earlier meetings who explained in detail how this would create MORE stress. We do need to listen to those students.
Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 11:24 am
My heart bleeds for the people who argue that we shouldn't change the calendar because the three additional school days in August are too hot. Give me a break. What about students in Phoenix and Sudan? If anything, we should push students to learn to deal with the heat. The "too hot" argument is just so much hot air. I hate to say it but this is one time I agree with Skelly. Let's get on with the new schedule. Enough BS already.
Posted by Gotta Cry, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 11:26 am
The calendar change was in process for more than three years.
It has been fully vetted and discussed.
From all rational positions, it was found to be a progressive and good thing for the vast majority of high school kids.
Could it be that those who originally were against the calender change or ignored the District's pleas to participate in the process are now attempting to get their way by starting an "after the fact" campaign?
Where were you guys when we were discussing this months and months ago.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 11:53 am
There are several legitimate concerns with the calendar change, all of which concern the likely increase in stress for students.
There are other ways to achieve a work-free break, such as quarters (aligning with Stanford and other schools) rather than semesters. Simply moving finals for 2 classes while the other classes are year-long is really not going to achieve a work-free break. The idea of "work-free" was apparently used to promote the special agenda of a group of people who wanted this calendar change for their own reasons, not really to reduce student stress -- they co-opted stress as their reason and managed to narrowly convince 3 of the board members, several of whom had serious concerns about the change. This is why tonight's "plan" will be discussed.
The "plan" is not a plan. Read it, and you will see. The concerns remain valid and the board needs to seriously consider reevaluating this change.
Posted by overcrowded, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 12:06 pm
The vast majority of parents have been against this change. The board has pushed it through in spite of the genuine opposition.
The "plan" for mitigation in elementary schools is a joke:
1. Use fans.
2. Keep the lights off.
3. Yard supervisors use squirt bottles to cool off kids who want a few squirts!
4. Take the class to read under the shade of a big tree.
5. Plan for less intense, more hands-on learning activities for a hot day (or time of day), when possible.
6. Visit your buddy class (in a portable or other location with A/C) and do a project together.
7. Plan a P.E. activity like a water balloon toss — low energy, in the shade, fun if you get wet!
8. Ensure students continue to drink lots of water — have them bring in water bottles on very hot days.
I love the "visit a buddy class in a room that has A/C" approach! What brilliance!
This calendar change wouldn't survive if high-schools students didn't have AC in their classrooms. Why do our youngest kids in the district have to suffer? Provide REAL mitigation before you prematurely introducing this change.
Posted by What is the big deal?, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm
For an intellectual community, why so resistant to change? Perhaps it's just the loudmouths and the majority are fine with the new schedule. Los Altos and Mountain View High Schools begin on August 15, Castilleja and M-A begin the next week.
The new schedule has us beginning only one week prior to this year: Web Link
I think we should extend the year into June so the students can have even more days off per month. Those extra days really help to de-stress.
Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm
Would it be to unking to suggest that this group of parents is most likely upset because the new schedule impacts their own schedule (not their kids) and because they take themselves just a tad bit to seriously, or perhaps both?
Posted by Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 29, 2011 at 12:39 pm
This was not just a parents against the calendar issue.
True, many parents spoke up at the last meeting against the calendar. But, there were teachers (including sports coach) and students who also opposed the change.
The change means not just the number of school days decreases in the first semester, but also the number of days (including homework time) in the semester and these days are fewer to get through the same amount of homework. So it is not squashing the same curriculum into less number of teaching days, but squashing the same amount of homework into a lot less days overall. Many students use weekends to catch up or get a good start on long term projects. With less weekends and no non-school days there is less available time to do homework, let alone all the other activities that need to be done for an active high schooler.
This is not just about being afraid to try a new plan. It is about the fact that the plan doesn't exist. It is fine for the board to say yes do it, but it is the teachers who have to implement it and I don't think there is any structured plan for how the teachers are to implement it.
And to those who say let's try it and see, you probably don't have a student who will be a senior who doesn't have a chance to go through senior year a second time if it doesn't work well. Their senior year only happens once.
Posted by Try it, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm
This issue has been thoroughly discussed. There is no new information. There is no reason to bring it up again until we try the new schedule. It's a divisive issue and should not be needlessly rehashed.
Posted by Observer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm
The new calendar will remove any chance for my high school students to fit in a summer vacation. Starting school so early will be exhausting for them. They'd rather take time then instead of a long winter break. Next summer will be terribly short for them if this goes ahead. Also, being a senior trying to get applications in in a short fall semester will be overwhelming. Talk about stress. When proposed, this went through because there was little concrete information out there about what it would actually mean. Don't use the excuse that it got pushed through so fast many of us missed the chance to weigh in. That makes it twice as wrong.
Posted by A parent and GHS alum, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm
Palo Alto isn't exactly jumping into an unknown abyss; finals-before-break has already been implemented and well received at many other high-achieving districts and private high schools, whose seniors face similar issues. If anything, they've lagged behind in implementing this.
Posted by Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm
@what's the big deal
Yes, I do have a senior who will be impacted. I am not speaking for myself against the calendar alone, but if you read my post, there were many parents who spoke against it, many teachers including the sports coach and many students who spoke against it.
I do have a senior who will be impacted and I don't like my student being used as a guinea pig.
I don't see how with summer school and sports obligations, that we will have much of a summer next year.
I don't like the calendar change because it doesn't suit our family or the family of many, many, students who are unable to take family vacations in June which is the busy time for many companies when August has traditionally been the off peak time for companies in the global market.
We will all be impacted, and most of us negatively.
Posted by care, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm
The last time we were in los altos and mountain view schools, they had already remodeled their classrooms, such as egan and santa rita, they have better classrooms and supporting environment.Look at our gunn high, it is so old so unupdated uncomfortable,especially during hot summer days and allergy seasons.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 29, 2011 at 3:11 pm
The question on the table tonight is whether or not the district did what it assured the board it would do when the board agreed to calendar change: namely, protect the students from collateral damage, which is potentially worse than the problems the change was intended to fix. I read the report, and essentially, the district ducked this charge and and provides no indication that it has any intention of providing this protection.
So, the board has two options: say, OK, that's fine then, we've identified all these kids who are going to be negatively affected, and you didn't even try, but no problem, we'll just say we don't care about them.
or, the board can freeze the change, protecting the students it identified as being worse off under the new calendar, until the district takes its requests seriously.
Unfortunately, I see no option in between these two.
Posted by parent PA, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm
We've been over this ground before, and it's just plain false to conflate the early start with having the exams before finals.
We COULD start later AND have finals before break. We would then have uneven semesters. Other schools do this.
We can commit to having finals before break (a wildly popular choice), and then decide whether the early semester start is unacceptable and a later start more important than having even semesters. Then depending on the decision, take steps THEN to mitigate the problems.
The reason this isn't the choice is because having uneven semesters is unacceptable to SKELLY, because he doesn't want to have to deal with all the educational changes that would entail. I can't blame him, he has to deal with the teachers, we don't. I just wish he was a little more honest and up front about those things. If felt for awhile there like he wanted to couple the change in finals with the early start in order to sink the whole thing and avoid change. However, I respect that he went forward with the change despite the controversy, it is in the best interest of the students.
Instead of attacking finals before break, is this group's beef about the early start? Because that's a separate issue. Instead of changing the finals schedule, they should be looking at uneven semesters -- other schools manage that way, too.
Posted by Paly Parent, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm
Multiple beefs, but what we have now is an early start, plus semesters that are uneven, however, because the teachers didn't want uneven semesters we're pretending they're not, instead, we've taken all the rest and homework days we could out of the fall semester in order to cram the normal fall material into a shorter time period. So the crunch, which many of us feel was problematic anyway with finals before break, is made far far worse than anyone intended going in to this.
So yes, had we been looking at a traditional start, real curriculum adjustments to accommodate uneven semesters, and finals before break in that context, not all of us might have been jumping for joy, but we wouldn't feel that we were about to embark on the most disastrous two school years we could imagine and we would have been willing to try it out. With this mess we have in front of us, we hope someone on the board is brave enough to say--we had good intentions, but this is not what we intended, and stop it now.
Posted by What, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm
Paly Parent, you may be right, but I suspect you are not. "The most disastrous two school years we could imagine" - that's pretty stiff stuff. My guess is the kids and teachers are more flexible and resilient than you give credit for, and that things will work themselves out. Perhaps some hiccups the first year, as usual when there are changes, but nothing that can't be handled. And yes, I have a freshman and senior as so-called "guinea pigs" (I believe the superintendent also has two high-schoolers, and at least one board member has one), but we are not losing sleep over the risks associated with school calendar change.
Posted by care, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm
Then keep the original calendar,make the finals of the most subjects before break,only leave uneven ones after the break(any other besides english?),make it less important when compared to regular tests,then problem solved.
Posted by Vianica, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm
I am sorry. It is laughable that among the concerns against the calendar change are hot classrooms, and pre holiday stress! Get real people. Palo alto is not a desert and our kids do not have tin or asbestos roofs over their heads! And we wonder why people in India and China who dont have any say in the school calendars and who sit and study in far less comfort and pandering not only suceed academically and professionally but also adapt well.
Posted by GunnGrad, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Nov 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm
I supported the calendar change throughout my entire time at Gunn. Of course, as a graduate, it will never impact me. But I can tell you that in college, the semesters end BEFORE WINTER BREAK. For all you Palo Alto parents who shell out thousands of dollars for test prep and college essay workshops so that your kids can get into good schools, look at this as just another way to prepare them for the big leagues. When they get to university, they'll find that there is no negotiating exam dates, and nobody cares that they're stressed out and want to go home. Start doing it right, the way it makes sense: semesters divided by a break.
Posted by C'mon...., a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm
Okay, so you're surprised that the District Office didn't do their homework? C'mon...REALLY? REALLY?!!
Time to stick a fork in it, folks...this is a done deal, there's still time to put plans in action and the school sites will come through. All will be well. Just like it's "well" in every high school in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties (well, minus those high schools in PAUSD and our sister district in Campbell) REALLY.
Instead of blitzing our school board meetings again and again, please use your energy and desire to do what's best for students by working with the school sites.
Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm Paly Alum is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
My goodness, Casey! Good thing you aren't a lawyer! What kind of argument is that?!
Parents of elementary schools were not in favor of the new calendar. However, elementary students do not have much to learn besides basic reading, writing, and math. Not much stress there or problems if they miss school.
High school parents, however, who have experienced the stress of academics understand that their children need a stress-free break.
Posted by observer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2011 at 1:50 am
There's just some really sanctimonious and rather nasty sentiment in some of the pro calendar change comments here. Can we try and be civil as we debate these very real issues and concerns? I have still to hear one solid argument for making this change. The source of the student stress is not having something hanging over them while on vacation, it's pressure from their parents to bring them glory by getting into a status school. Shame on you for using your children to puff yourselves up and then squabbling over phantom issues this creates. You know who you are.
Posted by C'mon..., a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 30, 2011 at 9:02 am
Dear Observer... I allowed my post to be more off-the-cuff and less care-full than it probably should have been. But it came not so much from a pro calendar stance as my disbelief in observing yet another blitz and harangue of our school board by parents seeking a reversal of the calendar decision.
The tone I picked up by reading others' posts is that many people were reacting - as I was - to the public theater of a group that is unwilling or unable to accept a Board decision. That's how it comes off at this point, I believe.
And the calendar merits and demerits have been debated incessantly. There are no new points, no stone unturned. To write otherwise or claim there has been "no solid argument for making this change" to date is not only disingenuous, it's disrespectful to the Board and a process that was beyond fair.
Our common denominator has always been our concern for our children - no argument there. There's an opportunity to shift from the energy of arguing positions to one of working together to make the best transition to this new calendar. No sanctimony intended. I really believe this can be done - and that this kind of energy is exactly what our school community and children need right now.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2011 at 9:55 am
The board identified key issues with the calendar in May and asked for specific plans by November to alleviate those issues. (Yes, even the board members who voted in favor of the calendar agreed that these issues exist and gave specific instructions on their expectations for the report.) The November report did not provide the details requested by the board.
Parents are trying to hold the board, staff and teachers accountable because, without plans in place, the board understands that students will be the ones who deal with the consequences. The board, last night, gave an extension on developing those plans. Whether anything materializes in the next few months remains to be seen. Many parents remain skeptical that it's possible to hold anyone (board, staff, teachers) accountable to what they say they will do. Words are very easy to say, it's the actions that are much more difficult to carry out.
The whole calendar issue seemed to arise because students want a carefree winter break. If it wasn't possible to enforce the no homework policy over winter break before (students reported doing an average of 4 hrs of homework over winter break), how can they enforce the necessary homework/project reductions with fewer teaching days and 22 fewer study days?
Posted by who?, a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:18 am
The whole thing requires a considerate amount of resources and powers that can not be controlled by the board members and district,with limitation of the resources and power,how would the district and the board come up with a practical solution that remains largely unreal.
Posted by Observer, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2011 at 1:17 pm
Thank you, C'mon, for a civil and thoughtful reply to my comment. While the new calendar will be awful for my students, I agree with your assessment of the current situation.
To, "...big deal?" The thing is, anything that impacts our students like this is a big deal. I'm glad you find humor in this. For me, while perhaps too confrontational to you, it is essential to point out the greater hypocrisy that underlies so much of the activism 'on behalf of students.' Their welfare is so often thrown under the bus by those who profess to care. This is something actually worth fighting over.
Posted by Marty, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm
People! Relax, it's going to be all right. Please don't repeat your arguments again, they have all been heard many times. A decision was made. Let's give it a rest. It *will* be all right. We can adjust. Really. It is not the end of the world.
Posted by Michele Dauber, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2011 at 8:36 am
@Lurker -- actually we're both right. The submission period opens November 1 and closes November 30. So kids can apply as early as November 1 but in any event, will have final drafts of essays completed long before Christmas break, that they can easily repurpose for the common app. So it is not the case that they will be racing to do them from scratch over the break -- most will already have complete drafts from the UC apps.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2011 at 9:36 am
The issue is not just about the timing of finals, but the timing of the start of the school year in early August and the ending of the school year in May with winter break right before Christmas and taking the first week of January.
Other school districts may have finals before break, but they also have a calendar more in line with the calendar we have at present. If they are able to do it, then we should look at why they can do it and we can't.
There is more to it than just giving the students a real break (because we know that most classes are year long classes and the students will be expected to put in work on projects etc. over break).
Posted by Gunn student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm
As a student at Gunn, I regret that this calendar change is taking place. True, I will be glad to have a more relaxing winter break next year, but it comes at the expense of a lot more stress before break.
Think about it: most kids will be studying for approximately the same number of hours for finals regardless of the schedule change. So is it better to pack all this studying into late nights of cramming before break, or spread it out leisurely over the 2-week break? I think the latter. There is plenty of time to both study and have fun over winter break, and most people don't spend much time studying for finals over break anyway.
The schedule change also means losing 2 weeks of this coming summer break. Summer is a time for students to relax, de-stress, and explore hobbies/interests. And 2 weeks means a lot, considering that it's a quarter of our summer break.
I realize that we can't do anything about it now that the school board has decided to change the schedule, but I hope you'll consider an opposing point of view all the same. Happy 2012!