A majority of Palo Alto Board of Education members suggested Tuesday they will support a proposed calendar that will end next year's first semester before the December break if certain problems can be "mitigated."
Board members Barb Mitchell, Dana Tom and Melissa Baten Caswell indicated they generally support the notion of pre-break final exams for high school students.
But they pressed Superintendent Kevin Skelly on whether he could push the August 2011 school start date a few days later, and mitigate possible problems pre-break finals could pose for performing arts students and seniors in the midst of college applications.
Although not plainly stating how they will vote, board member Camille Townsend and Board President Barbara Klausner appeared cooler to Skelly's proposed calendar change, which would begin the 2011-2012 school year Aug. 18 and end the first semester Dec. 22.
If the board approves Skelly's proposal Nov. 9 -- Palo Alto will join nearby high schools, including Menlo-Atherton, Los Altos, Mountain View, Woodside, St. Francis, Castilleja and Menlo -- in attempting to ease student stress by offering students a homework-free winter break.
The calendar issue has aroused passionate opinions from all sides, with some arguing the change would add stress as well as interfere with summer and holiday family trips and others saying that giving students a clean break over the holidays makes the tradeoffs worthwhile.
A September Facebook poll. asking Gunn students whether fall semester finals should be held before winter break even if it means starting school a week earlier, found 183 in favor of, and 37 against, the change.
Noting the "angst and passion" around the issue, Mitchell suggested that if Skelly could move the August start date from Thursday Aug. 18 to Monday Aug. 22, he could secure "a much larger group of people who could go along with this."
"I know there's something in (the proposed change) that can be really good, but I don't want to jump into a decision without mitigating the problems," Caswell said.
"I'm worried about seniors, about the performing arts kids, the kids doing sports. The problems need to be looked at in a serious way."