With a renewed blizzard of data, Palo Alto school officials this week again are asking the Board of Education to reform the academic calendar to end the first semester before winter break, beginning in 2012-13.
The board is set to vote Tuesday on the proposal, which has upset some parents who view the earlier August school start embedded in the new calendar as an intrusion on family vacation traditions.
Polling suggests that a solid majority of parents, teachers and high school students favor pre-break final exams, often cited as a measure to ease academic stress by giving students a clean break over the December holidays.
But opinion is mixed on whether the tradeoff is worth it if it means the earlier school start date which, in 2012, would be Aug. 16 instead of Aug. 28. The earlier date is necessary to maintain two semesters that are roughly even in length.
A contingent of Gunn High School teachers testified in favor of the calendar change at the last board meeting April 26, saying the current late-January finals schedule and one-day semester break render students exhausted as they begin second semester, leading to a well-documented "third-quarter slump."
School district staff members submitted some 80 pages of polls, proposed calendars and backup data in support of their recommendation for the calendar change or -- as a secondary recommendation -- a "rollover calendar" keeping first-semester finals in January.
In sample pre-break-finals calendars through 2017-18, officials penciled in a school start date as early as Aug. 13 in 2015 and as late as Aug. 18 in 2016.
Past calendars, going back 15 years, had start dates that fluctuated between Aug. 21 in 2006 and Sept. 8 in 1998 -- and first-semester finals in January.
Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers suggested that a "calendar advisory committee" consisting of staff, students and parents could be convened to hash out details of future calendars.
This week, board members will vote only on calendars for 2012-13 and 2013-14, with a proposed school start date of Aug. 15 in 2013.
The packet of data assembled by Bowers also includes a table of start dates for other area high schools, nearly all of which have made the switch to pre-break finals.
The table includes 2011 start dates ranging from Aug. 15 in Mountain View-Los Altos, San Jose Unified and Santa Clara Unified to Aug. 25 in the Sequoia Union High School District.
Following a 5:30 p.m. closed session in which the board will discuss, among other things, the Cubberley Community Center site at 4000 Middlefield Road, Tuesday's public meeting will convene at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.