An organization of Palo Alto parents is urging its members to write letters or turn out at tonight's meeting of the Board of Education to seek reconsideration of Palo Alto's academic calendar for 2012-13.
In a hotly debated decision in May, the board voted 3-2 to change the district-wide academic calendar, moving to a school-year start date earlier in August and an end to the first semester before the December holidays.
The majority favoring the calendar change cited the need to give high school students a stress-relieving, clean break over the December holidays. Nearly all other public and private high schools in the area already have shifted to pre-break final exams.
Under the new calendar, the academic year 2012-13 will run from Aug. 16 to May 30, with first-semester finals ending Dec. 21, with a similar structure the following year. The current academic year, by contrast, began Aug. 23 and runs to June 7.
At the time of the vote in May, 74 percent of Gunn High School students polled said they preferred an "early start (to the school year) with exams before winter break" and 78 percent saw "less stress with exams before winter break."
Opponents of the calendar change, including a group of parents now organized under the name Time to Thrive Palo Alto, argued that rather than relieving student stress, the new calendar will create more of it. They cited, among other things, uncomfortably hot classrooms when students return to school in mid-August and the added stress of high school final exams in the busy pre-holiday period.
Superintendent Kevin Skelly tonight will present a list of "mitigations" to address concerns about impacts of the calendar change -- a list specifically requested by the board at the time of the May 10 vote.
In a report to the board to be discussed tonight, Skelly addresses what he will do about worries that classrooms will be too hot for a mid-August start date, that unequal semesters necessitated by the calendar change will create problems for teachers and that pre-break finals will be unduly stressful for high-school seniors in the process of applying to colleges.
Time to Thrive members said Skelly's report does not adequately address their concerns.
In other business tonight, the board will discuss an estimated $2.5 million loss to the district triggered by the state's $3.7 billion budget shortfall, hear a report from the Elementary Math Task Force and discuss the proposed formation of an advisory committee to oversee the short-term lease of recently acquired district property at 525 San Antonio Ave.
Following a closed session, the public session of tonight's meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.