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Meeting on school calendar for next two years

Original post made by Scott Johnson on Aug 28, 2006

Just received a PTA bulletin about a meeting this Wednesday of the "school calendar committee", which will be discussing when school should start and whether there should be a "ski week" for the 2007-8 and 2008-9 school years.
It will be held at district headquarters at 25 Churchill from 3-5 p.m. but the public will not be allowed to speak. The meeting is part of the union contract negotiations.
More information at Web Link
If you attend, please post some observations about what happened.
My opinion: summer is too short and I hope we can go back to a later start and no ski week. And how about less time taken off for standardized testing too?!

Comments (23)

Posted by concerned parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 28, 2006 at 5:15 pm

Agreed. Notice also that we have two days off for Labor Day and extra days for Winter break. I would rather go later in June than start in the middle of August. I have been told by one high school teacher already that she doesn't get her act together and really start teaching until after Labor Day. So, I wonder if the teachers really like this too and if we can get them on our side.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2006 at 7:46 pm

I am a teacher in the district and I am, of course, interested in this issue. A few thoughts: Keep the ski week and shorten the December break! Those who want to eliminate the ski week argue that it breaks continuity for the kids' learning, AP students suffer, etc. Students in the Midwest and Northeast have ski week (winter break) and do just fine. Kids really need a break and more frequent and shorter breaks serve this need! And although it would be great to shorten testing time (AND the amount of standardized testing, but that's another story...), that time frame is dictated by the state. And, a lot of families, obviously not a majority but a notable amount, take their kids out for vacation when it works for them regardless of what the school calendar is anyway.


Posted by Bill Glazier, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2006 at 10:53 pm

This current calendar is very inefficient. Children need the summer off, and don't need constant 3,4, and even 5(!) day weekends throughout the school year. They have barely a two month summer vacation as it currently stands. We have a lengthy Christmas vacation, and then a ski week barely a month after that.

It is hard to find a parent who agrees with the revised calendar incorporating the 'ski week' that we have had for the last two years. Summer does not end until Labor Day. I would much rather give my children more time in the summer to relax and decompress from a busy school year, than take away essentially two weeks of their summer, seemingly for the benefit of a small number of teachers who like to ski and have 6 or more 3+ day weekends for personal travel. My kids think the constant breaks are just a distraction, and would prefer to have a real summer vacation.

When this was approved two years ago, it was done in a very unusual way - in the summer when no one was around to fight it. I hope the School Board shows integrity this time around and listens to the needs and desires of the community.


Posted by Palo Verde parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 30, 2006 at 11:41 am

Has anyone realised yet that we have two long weekends following one another in January with a three day week inbetween? Why not give us the three days off and call it ski week if we must have one?


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 30, 2006 at 12:32 pm

Will there be a moment for parents to provide meaningful input to the committee deciding on the school calendar? I fear not.

I attended the School Board meetings 3 years ago when the current calendar was proposed. At first the School Board rejected the proposed calendar, asking staff to review whether ski week/starting school so early was necessary. At the next meeting, staff simply responded that this was the best they could offer...with no further information about the process or issues considered by the mysterious committee who developed the proposal. The School Board voted to approve -- seeing that staff wouldn't budge and there were too many other pressing matters to be done that evening. I simply don't have confidence that our superintendent cares make sure that outside input from parents, students or teachers is considered.


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 30, 2006 at 12:53 pm

What I care about is easing high school kids' stress levels, so I'd be willing to start in August if we could get finals in before the Christmas holidays. Either that, or put Ski Week just at the end of the semester, so that kids could have the chance to decompress with some serious time off after finishing the first semester.

I agree that the current calendar is inefficient, but I actually particularly loathe the fact that we have SEVEN STRAIGHT weeks, from April 9 to May 28, with absolutely no holidays at all. A little more balance would also be welcome by me, if possible.

And 10 weeks off in the summer just seems more humane for the whole family....

It's my understanding that parents used to sit on the calendar committee but were removed a couple of years ago, when Mary Francis came. I heard, but cannot substantiate, that removing parents was at the request of one or more of the unions. So, I don't think parents will get a lot of chance to comment except unofficially to members of the committee, or at the board meeting when the calendar proposal is presented.


Posted by What happened?, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 31, 2006 at 9:16 am

Can someone who attended this meeting post a brief summary?


Posted by Frank Bravo, webmaster of Palo Alto Online
on Aug 31, 2006 at 10:49 am

Frank Bravo is a registered user.

We have posted a new poll asking about this topic to the front page of Palo Alto Online. Let us know how you feel by voting there and then commenting here.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2006 at 8:38 pm

To reduce stress, we should eliminate finals for the first semester. Other college prep schools have done so - the first semester grades are determined through other assessments like unit tests, papers, projects. The second semester final is for second semester only. Such a proposal has been delivered to the Paly and Gunn principals, Stressed Out Students Committee and the Calendar Committee.

Moving finals before the holidays creates even more stress around the already stressful holiday season (remember all those music concerts, holiday festivities, etc.) If we had no first semester finals, we could start school closer to Labor Day, have less stress, and have one more week of instruction in January.


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 31, 2006 at 8:50 pm

Frank,

While I appreciate the poll idea, the current question does not measure what I think many high school parents deem critical (as I said above): scheduling either ski week or Christmas/Winter break so that high school kids have finished finals just prior to ONE of these. In the context of this concern, your either/or question doesn't capture that concept.


Posted by Parents of Community Center, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 31, 2006 at 9:34 pm

Several parents and I share in the same belief that kids should have a longer summer and the ski week was pushed through to benefit teachers/admin. Coming from a dual income family, all the holidays place a lot of stress on the families and kids as well. There is no temporary daycare for these holidays and jobs in the valley are competitive. Parents cannot just take time off for these.

The old calendar worked well -- why did someone have to screw up a good thing?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 1, 2006 at 12:01 pm

If the purpose of breaks is to provide relaxation and time with family and friends, it would make sense to have the semester end before Winter Break. If we must start in August - lets at least make that happen. If we eliminated all the "local holidays" (what are those anyway?) we would be close to two equal semesters. I hardly know anyone that went skiing during ski week - although the HS kids had plenty of homework!


Posted by Parent, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 1, 2006 at 12:25 pm

As we struggle with this mid-August start, and are about to go into a 4-day Labor Day break, we see once again the absurdity of ending summer in mid-August. Give us back our summer that stretches through Labor Day, give us working parents Labor Day weekend to get ready for school. Lose the interruption of ski week, but don't let us out earlier in June (May?); the work world is in full swing then, the camps are not, so neither great educational opportunities nor family vacations are an option in June. Meanwhile, now in August, the work world idles, and I could too, if the kids weren't already at school.

Either skip the mid-term exams altogether (some teachers already do), or make it an almost-mid-term (there is no rule saying that the exam has to cover exactly one half of the year) or leave it in January, when families can shut down activity for a week and make time for the kids to study--a heavy homework week just before he holidays may be the final straw that breaks my already overloaded Thanksgiving to Christmas schedule.

And after this is resolved, let's talk again about why the committee doesn't have parent representation--again...


Posted by Laura Breyfogle, a resident of Addison School
on Sep 1, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Whatever is decided about timing, can we call it something other than "ski week?"


Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 1, 2006 at 4:26 pm

According to the PA Weekly, the proposed calendar gets rid of "ski week":

Web Link


Posted by mommydearest, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2006 at 7:27 pm

Re: "I agree that the current calendar is inefficient, but I actually particularly loathe the fact that we have SEVEN STRAIGHT weeks, from April 9 to May 28, with absolutely no holidays at all. A little more balance would also be welcome by me, if possible."

Yes, let's rename ski week and move it to a time when the spring semester is beginning to drag and kids' attention is wandering.

Candidly, though, a 10 week summer break is too long. To those who are worried about a week's break causing a disruption in learning, please think about how much children forget over long the summer break (which was originally intended to allow children to help their farming parents). In fact, at the start of every year, teachers have to spend considerable class time on reviewing the last year's work.

Incidentally, where did the strange idea that teachers want ski week come from? What teacher wants to go to ski slopes crowded by kids?


Posted by Paly Student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2006 at 11:47 pm

Im sure all of you are being effected by this really stupid calendar system, I am to. I love to board, but ski week was just a sneaky way the teachers have tried again to shorten my summer break! I remember about 10 years ago when i was in kindergarden we had like 10 or 12 some weeks of summer break, what did we have last year? like 8, its shorting and fast, id rather have no long weekends and have a reall long summer break than have like 4 billion breaks were people just sit inside because it is winter and do nothin! Our Teacher Friend said as follows:


I am a teacher in the district and I am, of course, interested in this issue. A few thoughts: Keep the ski week and shorten the December break! Those who want to eliminate the ski week argue that it breaks continuity for the kids' learning, AP students suffer, etc. Students in the Midwest and Northeast have ski week (winter break) and do just fine. Kids really need a break and more frequent and shorter breaks serve this need! And although it would be great to shorten testing time (AND the amount of standardized testing, but that's another story...), that time frame is dictated by the state. And, a lot of families, obviously not a majority but a notable amount, take their kids out for vacation when it works for them regardless of what the school calendar is anyway.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of another community, on Aug 29, 2006 at 7:46 pm


now personnally i went through and read pretty much every comment and this one was posted by a teacher, and what do you know there is a different opinion. First off we need winter break, not only because it is x-mas for 60%+ of the population, and we just had finals we need, no we deserve a break, but ski week a month after our 15 or 16 day break in not nessicary, its just a waste of our summer, the teachers really do want to kill summer. By the way the teacher who wrote this should know, we don't lve in the midwest and Northeast. We
live in nice sunny California, you wanna know why ski week works for them? umm lets see...IT SNOWS THERE!!!!! Face the facts in the Bay Area it doesn't, not really.

Another thing this person wrote "Kids really need a break and more frequent and shorter breaks serve this need!", I know because I am one of these people, we complain about how far the breaks are apart, but we only do complain because we have a miniscule summer, if i wanted a year round school id just go to a boarding school. Anyway, we do have frequent and short breaks, you want to know what their called their called Freaking weekends!!!!!, we have them all the time!!!!

WE WANT OUR SUMMER BACK!!!!!


Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2006 at 1:54 pm

Why not allow some choice between Winter and Ski week, with those who remain given intensive tutoring?


Posted by JLS and Fairmedow parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Sep 3, 2006 at 9:45 pm

As a parent of two kids on Palo Alto schools, I like a calendar with ski week. And starting early is a fine. Last year we were able to take a short break during a very "grinding" part of the school year homework wise. Our son and I went cross-country skiing during the day and had some of the most fun we had during that entire year, and then he was worked a bit on some of his homework projects in the evening.

It relieved some the the stress that might have occurred during that part of the year and allowed him to catch up a bit on homework. I real stress relief. (I don't know what the schedule is like in later JLS or high school, but late winter is a good time for a short break.)

Please keep it.


Posted by Sane parent, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2006 at 11:08 am

The ski week is a nuisance that adds no real value. A ski long weekend
is more than enough for skiing and we already have them.

The best school system would be one that lets children attend school
with a few holidays here and there, and have breaks *after* final exams or tests. Having breaks in the middle is no fun, it's used as an
excuse to procrastinate homework/studying. And that's not the way
we can get the kids ready for the real world.

Children need long summers to wind down, enjoy, and recharge. And,
long summers also give the bigger kids enough time to do a summer job
or project (need at least 2 months for that). I don't know about
others, but I enjoyed my summer vacations when I grew up, and I
find it harsh on our kids to have their summer vacations taken away
for some unjustifiable reason that most children don't care about.

I also noticed that the school becomes a picnic once the STAR
tests are administered. The enthusiasm of teachers to cover new
or unfinished topics after STAR tests are over diminishes
exponentially. It is a real waste of time. And, part of the
problem lies in the STAR testing methodology and timing I think.
But teachers should take more pride in their students and help
them learn all they can by teaching a wide variety of topics.


Posted by a Paly mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 10, 2006 at 12:07 pm

The added 'ski week' is not of interest to us. The current school calendar has a detrimental impact on some students' summer plans, including that of one of our teens, owing to the school year finishing so late in June.

We would greatly prefer a longer summer (or at least the schedule we used to have) with an earlier start to summer break. This would be more consistent with others we know, particularly in other states. Why is this important? Many high school students travel to participate in important summer activities nowadays, and our current late finish to the school year is now preventing PAUSD high school students from doing that in some cases. We have direct experience with being impacted with this and I have noted this is school surveys concerning the current calendar plan.


Posted by June Cleaver, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 10, 2006 at 12:47 pm

I don't understand why everyone is attacking the "ski week" when the real reason the summer is shorter is because of all of the short "special interest" local holidays given throughout the year. What's with a random two day holiday in October and why do they always give Monday and then the following Friday for MLK week. Why can't they give the Friday before so there is a four day holiday and not a week with three school days in the middle?

Most of our neighboring school districts offer a consistent week off for the Presidents' holiday week and the same consistent week in April, so that parents and childcare providers know consistently from year to year when vacations or childcare should be scheduled. It also helps teachers plan a consistent curriculum from year to year. Why are these surrounding communities not wasting time on this issue? Because it works for them (and the majority of the country as a matter of fact), that's why!!!!!

If you work and your child has the same number of holidays per year, I don't understand how having a week in February instead of three days really makes a difference in how much time off from work a parent needs to take. Perhaps it's just easier to sneak a day here and a day there, rather than a week absence, but then how does that make a week or two more during the summer preferrable?

In reality, if a community offers a consistent holiday schedule, then care providers will start offering "camps" to cover the holiday week. Most care providers won't have staff coverage for a day here and a day there, so in fact, these little breaks make it harder on working parents.

I especially don't see the argument against ski week, since PAUSD has traditionally, and it seems will once again, give three days off during this time, hovering around the busy weekend. I would much rather go away for the entire week then during the Presidents' holiday weekend, when everyone, including those people who do not have children, have a long weekend and decide to hit the road! If we don't have a week, then we might as well just have Monday off, as travelling over that weekend is not a stress reducer for anyone.

I love my children, but summers can drag on for all of us. In fact my daughter was counting the days until school started and this was a short summer! As a teacher, who has summers off, unpaid, I can't afford to send my children to Palo Alto summer camps; they are way too expensive. Other communities aren't offering camps because the children there are back in school and the counselors need to go back to school as well, be it high school or college.

Everyone has unique needs, but I think consistency is the name of the game. Changing the schedule every couple of years and having willie nillie holidays here and there is the problem, not a February break.


Posted by Carol, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 12, 2006 at 7:49 pm

Now that we are in a globally aware world with families having family and friends all over the world, it does begin to make sense to fall in line with what is going on elsewhere in the northern hemisphere. I have had experience in the past two years of families from Europe wanting to house trade with a family round here which means that each family lives in each other's house for a month, living a fairly normal life (buying groceries and such like) and learning what it would be like to live in that country. Families round here cannot do that because August is a school month, just like July is a school month in Europe. Secondly, I have friends from India who travel back each summer. This year, they had a very big family wedding in India in the last week of August. Since they had family from Europe as well as family travelling from the U.S. it was a very big family get together. This meant that my friends had to miss the first two weeks of school to get to their family re-union. I think this story is not unusual as many of our schools missed students until after Labour Day. For this reason, August should be a no school month, as so many of our families travel all over the world at this time for so many varied reasons.


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