Gunn and Palo Alto high schools should shift their academic calendars to hold first-semester final exams before the December break, starting in 2011-2012, Superintendent Kevin Skelly has proposed.
The start of the fall semester for all Palo Alto students should be moved from the fourth week to the third week in August, he said.
The superintendent's recommendation on the contentious calendar issue will be discussed by the school board Tuesday (Sept. 28) and will be put to a final board vote on Nov. 9.
The district is soliciting public comment to an e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Skelly said he will present a summary of the public comments at the Oct. 26 board meeting.
For 2011-2012, Skelly's proposal calls for students to begin school Tuesday, Aug. 16, and for first-semester finals to end Wednesday, Dec. 21.
For 2012-2013, the first day for students would be Tuesday, Aug. 14, and first-semester finals would conclude Friday, Dec. 21.
"Over the years, there have been competing thoughts about the best school start date," Skelly said in the recommendation, issued late Friday.
A survey of other school districts in Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin counties indicates a trend toward moving finals to before winter break, according to a school district staff report.
The number of districts with pre-break finals went from 11 out of 21 districts in 2008 to 15 in 2010.
Forty-six of the 61 high schools surveyed have pre-break finals, he said. Local private schools, including Castilleja, Menlo and St. Francis, also have made the switch.
A variety of student and parent groups "have strongly advocated for the pre-break finals to help address the well-documented student stress levels in the high schools," Skelly noted.
In the last district calendar adoption two years ago, the board kept the post-break exam schedule but included a statement that the break was intended to be a work-free time for students and staff.
"A survey of students after the 2009-2010 winter break found a substantial majority of students responding they still had homework assignments, and they still spent time studying for tests and exams scheduled for after the break," Skelly said.
In other business Tuesday, the school board is set to discuss upcoming construction projects at Fairmeadow Elementary School, JLS Middle School and Palo Alto High School as well as hear a specific update on a new performing arts center planned for Paly.
Board members also will review an academic progress report that includes data about how K-8 students are doing on the district's academic achievement goals, as well as K-12 results on California's Academic Performance Index.
The public meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters at 25 Churchill Ave.