The debate over changing the academic calendar in Palo Alto public schools has gone "viral," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said Tuesday.
Skelly, who has hinted he may recommend moving first-semester finals to before the December holidays beginning in 2011-2012, said he's received many e-mails on the matter. The current first-semester final exam period at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools is Jan. 18-20.
Many neighboring high schools -- including Menlo-Atherton, Los Altos, Mountain View, Castilleja and St. Francis -- have made the switch to December finals in recent years.
"The calendar issue is viral. Lots of people are weighing in," Skelly said.
Some say a December exam schedule would ease academic stress by giving students a clean break over the holidays. Others argue it would load up the pre-holiday calendar and disrupt family summer schedules by pushing the start of the school year to a date too early in August.
The superintendent's calendar recommendation for 2011 to 2013 is due by the end of September. A final school board decision is set for Nov. 9.
"That (timeline) should give families enough time to make plans for the summer," he said.
Skelly said the district's calendar committee is still mulling over the issue, but the superintendent himself has hinted he may recommend moving finals to before the holidays.
"I think we need to look at a calendar that gives kids some breaks," he said at a two-day school board retreat held in August.
Once a formal proposal is on the table, the school district will set up a special e-mail address to which community members can send their comments.
Two years ago the board voted to retain the January exam schedule, but encouraged teachers not to assign school work over winter break.
At that time, school board member Dana Tom said he polled colleagues in Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin counties whose high schools have made the switch to December finals.
"I heard from 23 board members, with 21 of them pleased with pre-break finals, one marginally supportive and one mixed.
"Some board members were initially skeptical but preferred the new calendar once their district experienced it," Tom said.
"Nobody stated they wanted to switch back."