Teens enthusiastic about new school calendar | January 11, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 11, 2013

Teens enthusiastic about new school calendar

In one-to-one interviews, students say 'work-free break' is worth tradeoffs

by Chris Kenrick

High school students overwhelmingly endorsed recent reforms to the Palo Alto's academic calendar in informal interviews conducted at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools this week.

Among 17 students interviewed one-to-one, all but three were enthusiastic about the new calendar, which launched the school year earlier in August in order to squeeze in the first semester before the December break. Previously, the school year began in late August and first-semester exams were held in late January.

Nearly all the students said the clean semester break over the holidays had allowed them to relax in a way that had not been possible when they faced post-holiday finals.

The value of that, they said, outweighed any inconveniences with the new calendar.

"In high school, especially at schools like Paly and Gunn where the curriculum is so rigorous, it's rare to have a period of time where there's no work," said Paly senior Emma Ketchum.

"Having that break with no homework was really, really nice."

Ketchum, who said she originally had been "worried" about the new schedule, found the experience better than she expected.

"I thought it would be hard (to take finals in December), but it really wasn't," she said. "And after everything was done, having that break without any homework and minimal college applications you have left was really nice. You could relax and just had that time to breathe."

Like most others, Gunn senior Katherine Zu echoed those sentiments.

"Having a stress-free winter break is really great, and I think that's what makes this calendar change awesome," Zu said.

"My winter break was relatively stress-free although I did have college applications. For the first week I could just focus on college apps instead of having to balance out both finals and college apps," she said.

"With the old calendar, finals were three weeks after winter break, and sometimes — even if I reviewed during winter break — I'd still forget some stuff and have to review again, so it was relatively ineffective."

Two of the 17 students interviewed said they'd prefer to go back to the old calendar and a third student, Paly senior Bria Vicenti, was critical of the new calendar but believes it should be retained and tweaked.

"I'm not a fan of the new calendar," said Paly senior Charlie Dulik. "Maybe I had a little less stress over winter break, but I had a much greater amount right before the end of the semester," he said, noting that some teachers had scheduled big unit tests the week before finals, just as many seniors were dealing with college applications.

Gunn sophomore Erica Watkins said the new calendar made it nearly impossible to get feedback, or have discussions with teachers, about final exams because grades were not due until after break. Worrying about those grades created stress for her over the break, she said.

Vicenti — who received early acceptance from a college the night before her final exams in December — said the new calendar was particularly rough for some students hit with negative early-decision news from colleges just as they were taking finals.

"I do think in the long run (the new calendar) is a good idea, but it was rough to have it switch my senior year," Vicenti said.

"I think it will take them a few years to work out the kinks."

Vicenti said the mid-August school start forced her to leave early from her camp-counseling job on the East Coast.

"I wish they could find an alternative to starting school so early," she said.

But most students interviewed said the early start had not been a problem for them or their families.

Paly senior Elisabeth Yan said she'd had to come back early from a summer internship in London, but the earlier end to first semester was worth the tradeoff.

"We used to study during winter break, and it was nice just to have that closure so there was nothing you had to worry about," Yan said.

Yan, who spent part of her break finishing college applications, said it was nice not to have to think about upcoming finals at the same time.

"And since (college applications) were due Jan. 1, we had a week left of break where there was nothing to be done.

"It was relaxing and really nice."

Paly sophomore Daniel Gleeson got his wisdom teeth extracted over winter break but said he still preferred it to last year's winter break.

"It's the first time the break is actually a break and that teachers don't expect you to remember everything after you come back," Gleeson said.

"They don't have to keep re-teaching the same thing. They just move on, which is good."

As for the mid-August school start, Gleeson said, "I wasn't too happy about it, but I'm going to be really happy to get out in May and I'm looking forward to that."

After heated debate, the new calendar was adopted by the Board of Education in an emotional 3-2 vote in 2011. It applies to the current school year as well as to 2013-14.

Board action on future school calendars, starting with 2014-15, is expected late this fall, and the school district has appointed an advisory committee to evaluate the recent reforms.

The committee will help survey students, parents and teachers about the pros and cons of the new schedule.

Committee members are elementary parents Amy Kacher, Stuart Friedman, Lance Martin and Kathy Jordan; middle school and high school parents Susan Usman, Howard Lee, Mukund Sreenivasan and Tekla Nee; Gunn teacher Laurie Pennington; Walter Hays Elementary School teachers Abby Bradski and Michelle Ketcham; Paly teacher Debbie Whitson; Gunn Assistant Principal Trinity Klein; Jordan Middle School Principal Greg Barnes; Gunn students Justice Tention and Sarah Dukes-Schlossberg and Paly student Jessica Feinberg. Gunn student Neel Guha was chosen as an alternate and one more Paly student representative is to be named.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

Really? An interview with 17 kids causes the author to say that students "overwhelmingly endorse" this new calendar?

I don't know either way, but I hardly think that this sort of claim should be made.

Is this truly "reform?" That would convey that it was improved upon. It just seems that this article is more of an endorsement rather than a reporting about what 17 carefully-selected students think.

Personally, I don't really know much about this. I am not a high school student and I will not have children in high school for quite some time. However, it seems that this article could have reflected some of the divisive issues raised when this was so strongly debated just over a year ago.

Posted by Wondering?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2013 at 10:17 am

How hard would it be to put up a questionnaire on Surveymonkey.com where students could answer various questions about how this schedule change has impacted their family life, and their personal life? Once there were at least 2,500-5,000 responses, then use those responses to evaluate the success of the change.

Given the increasing pressure on high school students, it would be most interesting to see how the students in each of the school types (elementary, middle, high) see the impacts of the schedule on their lives.

Posted by Trish, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 11, 2013 at 10:17 am

My teen enthusiastically endorsed the new calendar as well as well as all of his friends. He said he only heard a couple of kids complain, so that would be consistent with the findings of this article. Glad the School Board recognized what really should have been a no brainer--finals before Christmas break make far more sense than finals after break.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2013 at 10:36 am

The only kids I heard complain about the change were the seniors that procrastinated doing their applications and spent Winter Break working on them. Of course, they would have been doing that with or without Finals before Break.

Posted by Two cents, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2013 at 10:39 am

Nayali, I understand your skepticism, and you are right, the word “reform” does suggest improvement over the existing system, but as you probably know, the author of this article has had a lot of experience reporting on the Palo Alto schools. I suspect she has a pretty good sense about what is going on and did not “carefully select” students to support her opinion.

Posted by Two cents, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2013 at 10:42 am

My apologies for the misspelling, Nayeli!

Posted by that's uniified, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 11, 2013 at 10:57 am

How many elementary school kids did they interview?

Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer , a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 11, 2013 at 10:58 am

Two teachers -- one at Gunn and one at Paly -- were kind enough to let me sit at the edge of their classrooms and interview, one-on-one, any student who was interested once they had finished their classwork. In that sense the students were self-selected, not a statistically valid sampling, and their stories are anecdotal. The Calendar Advisory Committee will be conducting more comprehensive surveys of the entire school community at a later time.

Posted by Pro-Calendar, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

What feedback would elementary students give? How is their Winter Break different? They get to relax all year long with 10-60 minutes of daily homework at most! My elementary child would have said, "I have never seen my older brother so relaxed during Winter Break." Seriously, elementary and middle school parents, you won't understand the stress level of high school until your children are there. It's no longer the easy academics of the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, enjoy your parenting and children now before the stress kicks-in at high school. Look ahead to the future rather than knee-jerk reactions to your current situation of one week of less vacation.

My middle school child saw little difference in the new calendar. "We start school a week earlier but we get out of school a week earlier. I'd rather get out a week earlier because everyone is tired by the end of the year."

My 11th grader was SO relaxed. In prior years, he was depressed over Winter Break, with the though that he had to return to school to study old material for final exams. He wouldn't study during Break, but he couldn't relax because he felt he should be studying.

Do the naysayer Palo Altans think they are so unique that they shouldn't follow the schedule all the other school districts have adopted? That everyone else is wrong but they think outside the box?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 11:41 am

Glad to hear that the majority of seniors interviewed by your reporter liked the break.

However, this is not a complete survey. It sounds as if these students were from just two classes and all seniors.

Using the term "overwhelming" sounds like over enthusiastic journalism to me.

Perhaps the interviewer should now interview other grades, middle schoolers and parents, athletes and even the teachers to get a more comprehensive view. Saying all this, I think now is the time to ask them rather than leaving it to later in the year.

Posted by Let's Be Real, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2013 at 11:43 am

First: They should've polled more kids... period... before making ANY change.
Second: Why did the DISTRICT make the change as opposed to the high schools? It would be much nicer to have the High School kids start before the younger ages. My kids are in elementary school and their summer are now affected because of the change. We are 3 unhappy camper at this point.

Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm

My high school child also really appreciated the new schedule. It was a real break - no assignments! I was actually glad that grades weren't posted (mostly) until after the break so that he didn't need to worry about that either.

Please conduct a new survey (PAUSD or PA Weekly). Based on the independent, anecdotal discussions I have had with parents and students there is very high support for the current calendar, that will mirror the previous survey done.

There was an official survey done before; results can be found here (Web Link) and I found them to be quite convincing. One question regarding having finals occur before winter break was overwhelmingly supported by students, teachers and parents.

Posted by Pro-Calendar, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm

@Let's Be Real: We are a "Unified School District" so the calendars have to be the same. This is a college prep school district so if vacation means so much to your children, you might want to move elsewhere because they will have little time to play in high school.

Posted by Misha, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I see Chris Kenrick clarified in a post how the students were selected (self) and the nature of the information gathering, which really calls into question the slanted nature of the article and its overly conclusive headline. I would expect higher journalistic standards in all pieces and especially when it comes to "reporting" on very touchy and politically sensitive issues. Otherwise, put this in an opinion piece.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm

> We are a "Unified School District"

So if this poster is suggesting that every student has to march to the same schedule, then why is it that students in the lower grades are not in classes the same number of hours as those in the upper grades?

There should be no logical reason that the District could not set their schedule so that some schools start/end at different dates.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Doesn't anyone have a problem with the notion that students can now "forget" what was taught in the first semester? That this further condones teaching to the test and not deeper learning? I thought this was an academically rigorous school district. Or perhaps it's more important to get the grades than to actually learn anything.

Posted by good point, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm


The same thing struck me as odd too.

Pro-calendar teens like the new calendar because it is easier since they don't have to remember what was taught. Fortunately, adults know what is best for learning which looks to me to be the old calendar with space between what they learned before Christmas and the final after it.

This pulled from a post on the other thread about the new calendar:

Posted by big picture, a member of the Palo Alto High School community,

From UCLA researchers "The schedules by which we space repetitions can make a huge difference in how well we learn and retain information we study…. longer intervals create more potent learning events than shorter intervals." "Although massing practice (for example, cramming for exams) supports short-term performance, spacing practice (for example, distributing presentations, study attempts, or training trials) supports long-term retention. The benefits of spacing on long-term retention, called the spacing effect, have been demonstrated for all manner of materials and tasks, types of learners (human and animal), and time scales; it is one of the most general and robust effects from across the entire history of experimental research on learning and memory."

Posted by Pro-Calendar, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 3:20 pm

@Bob: I don't set the rules.

@good point: For final exams, students are supposed to be reviewing, not learning for the first time. Therefore, they still do learn it by learning it the first time and then reinforcing when they are reviewing for finals, whether the finals are before or after break. The time-spacing issue does not refer to weeks, it can be days.

Posted by good point, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm


"longer intervals create more potent learning events than shorter intervals"

Posted by Regardless, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm


>There should be no logical reason that the District could not set their schedule so that some schools start/end at different dates.

Yes, there is. Plenty of high school students have middle/elementary school siblings. If we have the high school students on this calendar, and the middle/elementary school students on a different calendar, you

A. Lose the high school students to assist with babysitting for when the younger students are out of class (ie, Staff Development Days). This also continues with summer vacation--plenty of high school students work as camp counselors or babysitters over summer, and you're losing that resource if they are back in class.

B. Lose vacation time. If the elementary/middle school students don't get out until mid-June, and the high school students start mid-August, you're losing out on two weeks of potential vacation time with your family. The same thing goes if spring break is moved around.

A Unified School District does present problems--but a divided one moreso.

Posted by unfortunately, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Palo Alto now has its own version of climate change deniers -- "calendar deniers." As soon as I saw that story in this week's Weekly I thought, that's going to bring all the crazies out and voila! The kids like the change -- no surprises there. And after a few years, no one will even remember the old calendar, all your kids will be graduated and that will be the end of this. Meanwhile though, we are being treated to ongoing circus of the "Calendar Advisory Committee" in which the same people will re-litigate the same arguments over and over, probably complete again with tears, door slamming, and yelling.

What is really going on is that the new calendar is perceived by a small subset of parents who have Ivy ambitions for their kids as putting their kids at a slight disadvantage in achieving those ambitions.They have repeatedly posted about the 30+ essays their kids are writing (and not to second guess who is doing the writing of those essays but they do seem to have a lot of knowledge about the prompts). They are concerned about the mega-successful .1% of kids in the district not getting into their first choice school. Meanwhile, the 6,000 other high school students in the distrct not in 12th grade and the 1500 other seniors who are NOT applying to elite colleges are supposed to have a calendar that is demonstrably more stressful (and please don't post back demanding proof, scroll up and read the article instead) so that they can externalize the costs of maximizing the elite college chances of their child. Some school board members have gone along with this because they also want to maximize elite admissions because it makes the district look good.

The old calendar penalizes 1500 secondary students for the purported benefit of the few very privileged kids who already benefit from private tutors, private college counselors, and every advantage this earth can provide. The new calendar strikes the right balance and should be retained. Maybe it will but not without a big dysfunctional drama.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Bob wrote:

There should be no logical reason that the District could not
set their schedule so that some schools start/end at different

Regardless responded:

Yes, there is. [Followed by a some reasons]

Bob continues:

Well, there are about 1150 school districts in California, and tens of thousands throughout the US. For the most part, none of these districts are "Unified". Los Altos (right next door) has an elementary school district, but no high school district. So, what makes it possible for Los Altos to operate under two districts, but Palo Alto only one?

Clearly, the high school districts are not going to coordinate their schedules to align with the elementary districts in order to comply with the reasons that *Regardless* offers.

It would take far too much time to prove this point, one way or another, but with over 14,000 individual school in CA, synchronizing them for every begin date/end date, including break days, is not likely to be something that is likely to happen.

Posted by Alignment, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Taking a peek at other local elementary school districts (Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Woodside, Los Altos), essentially they all followed the same Winter Break dates as PAUSD (quite possibly because they feed into high school districts with Pre-Break finals and try to align as much as possible for many of the practical reasons pointed out by "Regardless").

Fall start dates among the high school districts and their feeder school districts were not in exact alignment - but within a few days of each other.

Every unified school district in Santa Clara County had their elementary, middle and high schools follow the exact same calendar (no staggering of start dates for different levels).

Posted by good point, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm


You probably don't have any kids in our high schools because if you did you'd know that 30% of PAUSD seniors apply to Stanford and the Ivies each year and there are almost 200 who are National Merit scholars/have the highest standardized test scores in the US.

30%/200 is not a "small subset" or ".1%" of kids" that you summarily dismiss.

Posted by James Hansen, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm

The fact that 30% apply to Stanford and around a dozen or so (less than 2%) get in tells you that expectations are incorrectly calibrated and likely among the same parent body. If you want to stress out your kids with unrealistic expectations and encourage fantasies that cannot come true while ratcheting up the pressure and workload for them that's your business (sort of) but don't expect the entire town to sacrifice so that you can get your crazy on. And elite schools turn down most of those national merit finalists every year. There are simply too many "perfect" kids for the slots available. But I think you have proved the point.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I just looked at the class of 2011's list of colleges and about 15% go to what most would consider top schools (Ivy's, Stanford, MIT, Berkeley).

Posted by James Hansen, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Subtracting Berkeley because the essays are due with the UC app it is under 10%. But even if it was 15% that means that 85% do not. This is a classic public choice problem in which a small well organized minority with very strong desires is trying to obtain at public benefit at the expense of the larger more diffuse general public. The 90% do not need more stress so that your child can have an extra 2 weeks to polish her resume for the big race. 85% is a big number to bear the costs for the minority you represent.

Posted by Pro-Calendar, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Haha, well said, James Hansen! I agree the 30% isn't an indication of whether the applicants are students typically accepted by Stanford. Many might submit applications there just so they won't wonder their whole lives.

@good point: "longer intervals create more potent learning events than shorter intervals" is a weak argument. The school's job is to teach. Whether the children want to study to retain information or choose to cram and forget is the student's issue. Those parents who demand that their children retain material should be by their bedsides each night, quizzing them on what they learned each day so they can remember every point taught into their retirement years. Oh, right, they already are - they just want others to follow their lead.

Posted by good point, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 6:00 pm


Stanford's admit rate - available all over the web - is over 3 x what you claim.

You are probably right that there are far more bright students than open spots in the most competitive colleges. Your logic fails though because all in the top 30% could be admitted based on their stats but none know whether they will be the ones selected for admission ergo all of them who want to attend need to apply.


Go back and check your research on how many seniors are in our district, etc. You've overstated that by a huge factor. For dramatic effect?


Why the anger? Reading your posts it's as if anyone who found the new calendar worse than the old one burned a flag in front of City Hall.

Posted by James Hansen , a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Each high school has around 500 seniors for 1000 seniors total. out of that 1000 around 20 to 25 will be admitted to Stanford including the high number of faculty kids causing the over representation at Stanford of PA kids. The odds for a no faculty child are considerably lower. But using the inflated number that includes faculty kids that's 25/1000 or 2.5%. Stanford's admit rate of 7% is based on applicants while we are discussing percentage of graduates not of applicants. You are suggesting that we set policy to serve the tiny number with realistic elite prospects. That number might be 15% total including the tiny percentage that is admitted to Stanford. The majority should not have a stressful schedule to support the choices of this small group.

Posted by Math Teacher & Parent, a resident of Addison School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Last I checked, surveying 17 out of 11,000 students (taken from PAUSD website as school population) is not statistically valid.

Posted by former PALY parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm

unfortunately, a member of the Gunn High School community:
You NAILED it. You know the score around here.

Posted by Trickle Out reality, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Finally we can include the actual experience of our youth (and parents and teachers) into the calendar discussion and decision-making. 17 student experiences is a welcome start (thank you, Chris and Weekly) with, hopefully, many more students still to provide their feedback as well. We should welcome it all and listen carefully.

It is music to my ears to read so many student comments saying they experienced their first true break, felt relaxed and "closure". I know it's not conclusive or a representative sample (c'mon, everyone). It just feels good to hear, from "the mouths of babes", that this was a positive for this many. For those students who felt increased stress right before finals, and who felt the new calendar created those conditions, it bothers me to know they struggled. Their insights will be critical toward improving future calendars and helping teachers and students develop strategies to avoid or minimize repeating those conditions next year (or, hopefully, in years to come).

It's not too soon to be happy...there was some VERY good news in this article.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm

It seems that they liked the break, but not the rush before finals, from some of the comments the students made.

It also seems that several of them did not like the early start to the school year, coming back from London and the East Coast early to start school.

Of course they like a break with no homework, projects or finals looming. Duh!

Perhaps the questions should have been more comprehensive and all the comments the students made taken into consideration too.

Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2013 at 8:38 pm

What bothers me is how the interview of 17 kids yields the headline "Teens enthusiastic about new school calendar." The headline makes it sound as if the overwhelming majority of PA teens love the new calendar. Is this innocent or calculated?

To me it's more propaganda than reporting and is in keeping with the Weekly's habit of taking sides in debates regarding Palo Alto schools under the pretense of just reporting the issues.

I do not like it.

Posted by alarmed, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 11, 2013 at 8:42 pm

This "news" story is a thinly-disguised attempt to color the debate over an important issue. The headline is outrageous. The publisher of the PA Weekly has made little effort to hide his view on this subject (which are to support the new calender). In this instance the Weekly sends out a "reporter" to do a hit-job on the topic. It's easy to find a set of students who would support any view you want to take on a subject, particularly this one. When will the Weekly begin to act more like a newspaper and less like the old style of yellow journalism?

Posted by Trickle Out reality, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm

@Midtowner and alarmed... I've been "pro-calendar" and I don't see this article as conclusive. But I am very happy that we are and WILL be hearing directly from students (and parents and families) who now have real-life experience with this type of calendar. Reality WILL trickle out - or perhaps there will be a formal survey?

In the meantime, these ARE the words of 17 actual students. No need to "do the math" right now. We shouldn't do the math right now - or call "a winner". That's not what this has been about. It's been about what's in the best interest of our children's health and academics. And we should welcome their feedback and listen.

Posted by milefive, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 12, 2013 at 7:23 am

milefive is a registered user.

Add another happy two Paly students (freshman; junior) who LOVED the new calendar. They both play Fall sports and had zero problem showing up midAugust to school. Both of them also are in Band and had no problem with performance schedule. Both talked about tests just before finals but then realized having those tests made it easier to study for finals because they had been studying all along. The big payoff was a great mental and emotional rest over the winter vacation. Now they are back in school ready to go with the new semester. My junior told me that for her freshman and sophomore years, she always stressed out over winter break because she felt she should study but couldn't get motivated to do so. Then she did poorly on her finals both years because she forgot lots of stuff from the previous months. The new calendar suited her way better than the old calendar and she did well on finals for the first time. She now feels she has a chance at getting into college. Please keep the new calendar.

Posted by student, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 12, 2013 at 9:42 am

As a student, I loved the new calender. The old testing schedule didn't "help me retain the information" but just made me forget the smaller details that I then had to relearn. This year, everything was still with me, making it significantly easier to study what I didn't know and do better on finals then previous years. Finals coming up so quickly did add slightly more stress to start, however I believe that part of it can be attributed to the fact that all the teachers also had to shift their schedules to finals before break, and a slightly shorter semester.
In previous years, some teachers would also assign homework over winter break, using the fact that it was only due the Tuesday or Wednesday after as an excuse. This year because there was a new semester, there was no work, a great relief to me and my friends, who all needed a recharge to get back into school.

17 people may not seem like an accurate representation, however the voices of these people will only be echoed in other surveys.

Posted by another parent, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

My kids are in school too, and they have experiences from which I would like to offer generalizations and prescriptions about policies for everyone. My chidren thought the the new calendar had some effect on their lives. The teachers were even teaching material during the whole semester. There were finals. There were college applications and sports and music. And has anyone thought about summer break? Why can't you all see the obviousness of my viewpoint? I went to a top college and I know these things. I feel so strongly about this. I also have to post this anonymously because if anyone out there knew my opinion I might actually have to own up to the fact that I have opinions and expressed them here to people who might disagree - even though I'm right. Why can't Palo Alto schools just do everything right? Don't we pay enough for homes and in real estate taxes? I'm so tired of being right and having the city and the schools not just do what so obviously needs to be done and should have been done a long time ago.

Posted by another another parent, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 12, 2013 at 10:03 am

Dear "another parent" -
You sound like one of those arrogant Palo Alto parents who thinks they know everything. How dare you think that! My kids are different from your kids and therefore the real answer to the problem is that the district should do what suits my family.

Posted by Tres Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

"Another parent" is being sarcastic, claiming arrogant people post anonymously and selfishly. I hope they send evaluations to all Paly students instead of letting a committee decide.

Posted by Another another another parent parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I demand a committee and I demand that it be me and my friends and that we can force everyone to care about how long it takes our particular children to complete their excessive number of essays for their unrealistic and quixotic campaign to get into my husbands alma maters while playing 3 varsity sports and spinning plates in the air. By the way if it wasnt for affirmative action it wouldn't be so hard for legacies from good families to get into top schools and them we wouldn't have to have the need for such a grueling schedule so it's your fault liberals if you don't like the calendar. I will cry and call the school board murderers and slam the door if I don't get my way so that's how we got a task force focused on my needs.

Posted by middle school parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Change is hard. If the response were much different, it would be surprising, since so many other schools and universities have found that finishing finals before winter break is a good thing.

The comments of the kids who did not agree should be considered carefully in order to improve the change. Do we start too early in August? Could that be changed to unequal semesters, or would the trade-offs not be worth it? These are refinements we should not overlook. Now that we have taken this step, we should use the feedback - especially the legitimate constructive feedback - to further refine the calendar.

It would be nice if middle and elementary families were interviewed as well.

I liked the calendar this year, even though we started school so early.

I hope this experience will give district personnel a shot of courage when it comes to facing inevitable resistance (especially their own) to making well-supported improvements.

Posted by Another another another parent parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm

A Paly student said he would rather have oral surgery than the old calendar. In the words of GOB Bluth, "Come on!" Can't we just be done with this? No of course not we have to have the silly Time to Thrive task force (should be renamed since I don't think the Batann death march through the Common App sounds like "thriving"). We have real problems in PAUSD: suicide, drugs, sex, eating disorders, indoor air quality, poor quality counseling, terrible elementary math, excessive academic stress and competition, whole families being shut out by the BV redevelopment, racism against VTP kids, bullying by students and teachers (looking at you Jordan). And what are we going to spend time on? This inanity. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by C, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 12, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I've registered my opinion in the past, and it's the same -- I still hate finals before break. One important thing to note is that a reason (perhaps the most important) students preferred the new schedule to the old was because teachers didn't assign reading or projects over break because the semester was ending. Assigning work over break was against the rules anyway, so theoretically this is not a gain on the new schedule. This year they just assigned projects due in dead week or finals week itself. I prefer projects over break (which aren't due day 1 you get back anyway, but say the thursday or friday after returning) to projects during dead week but that's my take.

Unfortunately: "and after a few years, no one will even remember the old calendar, all your kids will be graduated and that will be the end of this." Oh how wrong you are, I hold grudges: I still blame Lyndon Johnson for messing up our immigration system with immigration caps. And everyday math was added a few years ago and I never went through the curriculum, but I still think it's a stupid idea. I'll remember the new calendar (I remember the old, 2-day block schedule too, even though I never had classes following it) especially since it was passed during my junior and senior years.

I was also never stressed for finals under the old schedule. We had something like 3 weeks before finals under the old schedule, and I would always study then. I never took textbooks or any other educational materials with me while I vacationed.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

My kids didn't stress over break, and enjoyed the work free break. They also enjoyed their breaks in previous years, and didn't stress. The difference? This year, we pretty much lost the holiday season. No family pre-Christmas activities, no cookies, no gingerbread houses, just a rush to get a Christmas tree on the Saturday after school ended (with very little left in the lots), a rush to put it up, before everyone ran out Xmas shopping individually. In previous years my kids made many of their gifts to others; this year, that wasn't an option. And then, after Christmas, I went back to work while my kids were still on vacation. Was the "stress free break" worth the sacrifice of so much of what had been in the past special family time? I don't think so.

Posted by Regardless, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2013 at 11:54 am

@Paly Parent - While perhaps the run-up to winter break was more stressful, the weeks of winter break (final full week of December to the mixed week of December and January) is the same. When Christmas was last on a Tuesday (2007), The final day of classes was December 21 and the students came back on January 7--exactly the same as this year. Getting out so close to Christmas and starting so late in January is due to the Tuesday Christmas, NOT due to the new calendar, so any comments about you going back to work while your kids were still on vacation are moot to this conversation--the calendar has not changed the dates of winter break. (For reference, 2007 calendar is Web Link and this years is Web Link)

The run-up to Christmas is ALWAYS stressful, especially to middle and high schoolers. Even before pre-break finals, there are still unit tests and projects due that Friday; college applications were still due; music concerts and performances were still happening. I've never been able to truly start celebrating Christmas until the kids are done with school on that Friday, because even without finals, they were still swamped with work.

The difference is, this time, school truly ended on that Friday. There was no homework. The students could relax and fully celebrate the holiday season, whereas before, even if they were not actively studying, there was still that constant reminder that finals were coming. This time, the worst part was over, and that helps families celebrate perhaps a little more freely.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Earlier I mentioned the irony that it's now condoned to forget material over winter break.

I find it deeply disturbing that we had all this drama about 4hrs of homework over winter break. Isn't it ironic that now everyone who likes the calendar sings about how great their vacation was over winter break? Sounds like this is only about vacations. The people who prefer winter vacations over summer vacations seemed to like this calendar more.

Maybe the survey should ask about favorite family vacations. I know at least one high school family who left town as soon as school was out and only got home the night of 1/7. Was this really about winter vacations being more important than summer vacations?!

Posted by Omigod, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Parent and Paly parent please for the love of god just stop already. Do you really not know that you sound totally crazy? You calendar deniers are like Fox News commentators who live in their own weird fact bubble and don't understand why everyone else seems to have a very different reality. You talk your own weird language about "moving stress around" (please for the sake of all that is holy do not attempt to explain that again) and speak conspiratorially about how "isn't it funny that...." Its over. kids like this better. they arent going back. Please. Just. Stop. No one cares about your overblown sense of entitlement, your gingerbread house (boo hoo) or the fact that you have to go to France in July instead of August (waaaaa!). Stop.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2013 at 2:27 pm

wow. pot calling the kettle black.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Please remember this is just a two year trial calendar, and nothing is decided beyond the 13/14 school year. I am pleased that there are people taking surveys and looking into all the issues before any decision is taken on the 14/15 calendar and beyond - it would be irresponsible to not do so.

The winter break is only part of the issue as is the timing of finals. The early start and early finish are also big issues for families, not only for vacations but for childcare. There is also no guarantee that camps can easily start in May/early June as they are usually staffed by college students who need to spend at least a week training before the camps start, so timing there remains uncertain. Spring sports may also be an issue as students have not yet experienced this.

All these issues need to be discussed and taken into account.

The real solution may be trimesters as other countries do. I hope someone with educational experience is looking into this possibility also.

Posted by better rush to sign up, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Moms and dads hoping that camps will be open to provide child care while they work the first week of summer/June better rush to sign up.

Jefunira and Camp Galileo don't start that week and Palo Alto Rec is only offering 2 day-long camps for 7 year olds the first week of summer.

What happened to all the camps that were supposed to start early to meet working parents' needs?

Posted by Omigod, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 15, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Yes, where indeed will ANYONE FIND ANY CHILDCARE? Isn't it IRONIC? Does anyone find it IRONIC and FUNNY and ODD and DEEPLY DISTURBING that the PACCC childcare has materialized on the exact schedule immediately after school gets out beginning on June 3 exactly as they committed to exactly as planned and precisely as they told PAUSD that they would before the calendar was adopted last year?

BETTER RUSH TO SIGN UP there are only 5 different locations serving hundreds of children and registration is set to begin on FEBRUARY 1 which means you are only 2 weeks away from being too late to even start!

Web Link

Honestly if everyone isn't completely sick of these people by now I don't know what it will take. Please. Just. Stop. Now.

Posted by Omigod, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm

THE SKY IS FALLING! The YMCA of Palo Alto is also doing dozens of summer camps beginning exactly on schedule on June 3, exactly as promised, serving hundreds of kids. Their registration is only now and began on January 1, meaning GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT. Can you believe the crisis that we now have on their hands with all these camps beginning precisely on schedule and having tons of space? IT'S HORRIBLE. The school board are going to have blood on their hands for this.

And I personally find it deeply disturbing that many of these YMCA and PACCC sessions will directly conflict with my family vacation in Monaco.

Web Link

Posted by Omigod, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Let's be honest. You wouldn't know a working mother if one fell on your head. Every working mother in Palo Alto knew about these camps for weeks because we have to. Please. Go back to Starbucks in your yoga pants and stop using those of us who actually work as a prop for your ridiculous campaign to get your daughters into the lesser Ivies.

Posted by Trickle Out reality, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2013 at 9:10 pm

hmmmm. Better Rush's post does feel disingenuous - especially when a quick check of the YMCA and PA Rec programs shows start dates of 6/3, 6/8 and 6/10 for MANY of their summer programs. Whether they are all-day or partial day, it is clear these organizations have scheduled summer programs (and there are many!) according to Palo Alto schools' calendar.

PS - Cal is out mid-May - they always enjoy a jump on summer jobs (and thanks to earlier Y & PA camp dates, can start working & earning earlier than in previous years). And our high schoolers will be available for summer hire earlier than previous years too - a potential advantage over their counterparts from other school districts.

Posted by better rush to sign up, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 7:36 am

Between PACCC, the Y, PA Rec and summer school there are only 7 camps for 7 year olds that week. Hope that the 1,000s of Palo Alto kids who need care will fit in the 100s of spots Omigod posts about.

Babysitters, even college students home for the summer, cost lots more than camps. It is hard to find someone who wants to work for one week. College students get jobs for the summer and don’t take a week off in the middle to babysit.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 8:06 am

Camps can advertise their dates and space but have yet not enrolled their staff. We will just have to wait and see how they manage with staffing.

As I said before, we have not experienced a summer yet so until it happens there will be a lot of unknowns. It is still a wait and see game, I'm afraid. I am not saying it won't work, but making assumptions is a bad idea.

Additionally, this will probably mean our lovely Rinconada swim pool will probably be closed most of August as well as September when the weather is hot.

Posted by Omigod, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 16, 2013 at 8:12 am

Not only will the pool close but all the flowers in our lovely Gamble garden will die because no one will be there to water them. I have no evidence for this, just a feeling in my gut that all the flowers will die. I go with my gut about things like facts because my gut is telling me that probably all the flowers in our lovely garden will die as a result of this godforsaken calendar and when they do, it is clear that the school board will have pollen on its hands for that horticultural catastrophe. After all the flowers in the lovely garden and the lovely pool, then it will probably happen that all the bike paths will close. I have no idea why I am linking this totally unrelated thing to bike paths -- just that it was something unrelated that I could fear monger about and possibly stir up a constituency. So, did you know that all the bike paths will be rutted, closed and full of potholes as a result of this calendar? Well, it feels true to me in my gut that it will. Please, keep reading the inane postings of obsessed housewives for more information.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 8:30 am

To the poster with the blasphemous name

I have no idea who waters the flower gardens, so I will not mention that.

The recreational swim times at Rinconada are usually staffed with lifeguards from the Paly (and Gunn) swim teams. If they are back at school, I can't imagine how they will have anything other than lap swim at Rinconada once school starts. I also know that AYSO and other fall sports (non school sports) don't start until after Labor Day, so I expect that on a hot August afternoon after school a lot of children may like to cool off in the pool and I hope that you are right and the pool will be open.

I am just not counting my chickens. I haven't been able to find the summer schedule for 2013 on the website.

Posted by Omig-d, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 16, 2013 at 8:33 am

Thanks for reminding me -- all the chickens at Hidden Villa! Who will take care of them. They are saying that they will continue to be cared for, but can anyone really be certain? This is the first year of this G-dforsaken calendar. We have no proof that this calendar will not result in Hidden Villa being unable to find volunteers to feed the chickens. Therefore, my gut is telling me that they will all be dead. You can't prove I am wrong. That is why I, and "Resident" are not counting our chickens. We can't count them yet. They could all die.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2013 at 8:36 am

I will not take the bait

Posted by Omig-d, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 16, 2013 at 8:42 am

And where in this booming economy full of jobs, where it is so hard to find any workers, especially low wage workers like child care workers, would we ever find people who want to babysit for PACCC or the Y? I mean, have you not noticed how there are millions of jobs for everyone who needs one and a shortage of workers? I of course have not held paid employment since my children were born 17 years ago, except for "consulting" and "freelancing" and of course "community volunteering" but still I think I count as an expert on the paid wage labor force, since I have read about it in search of good college essay topics for my daughter's Penn application.

Posted by PA mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2013 at 9:43 am

I really resent the idea that just because I don't work anymore that I am less informed about the childcare needs of working parents. I happen to personally know several working mothers including the woman who cleans my house, Margarita, who is practically like a member of the family. Just FYI she told me she is against the calendar even though she lives in Campbell because she is worried about the working Hispanics in Palo Alto. Just because I don't work doesn't mean I am not entitled to speak for those who do. I have as much right as anyone to demand that my voice be heard. It's very sexist and racist to presume that a wealthy white stay home community volunteer cannot speak for working parents of color.

Posted by resident, a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

OMG - you truly need to turn off the computer, pick up your marbles that you've scattered all over the floor, and go outside for some fresh air.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.


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