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School calendar meeting week or no ski week?

Original post made by PAUSD parent, Old Palo Alto, on Jun 7, 2006

A committee of school district teachers and staff is developing its proposal for the school calendar for 2007-8 and 2008-9, and there is a meeting today at 25 Churchill at 3 p.m. This committee has no parent representation and the public is not allowed to participate in the meeting....just observe!

This is the same process that gave us the current calendar, which starts school on Aug. 21 and gave us a ski week.

There will apparently be community meetings in September and October to get input on whatever the committee decides, but for anyone with concerns about the school calendar it might be smart to attend this afternoon's meeting.

What do people prefer for the school calendar? I'd prefer a later start to school and no ski week, but wonder how others feel...

Comments (21)

Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 7, 2006 at 8:57 am

Why no parents on the committee? Do I recall that this is something that has to be negotiated with the unions, or is it just up to the school board?

Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2006 at 10:28 am

There are ways to give input. See

Web Link

Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2006 at 10:29 am

Second try to get a correct link to the PAUSD calendar committee:

Web Link

Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2006 at 11:05 am

This is from an e-mail sent out to parents of freshmen:

The calendar committee (representatives of administration, teachers, and staff) has held two meeting to consider options for the 2007-8, and 2008-9 calendars. They have reviewed the community input, calendars in nearby districts, holidays, and Stanford University's schedule. Some high school personnel have emphasized the benefits of ending the semester before winter break; many members of the public expressed a desire for long summer breaks; there were comments pro and con on the February break. The committee has noted that due to the extensive activities and testing in the Spring, the second semester, the number of useful school days needs to be considered in designating the semesters as being of "roughly equal length." The committee is weighing all of this input in developing the calendar proposals. You can offer feedback on the eventual options at community input at meetings in September or October before the calendars are submitted to the school board in November and December. As you may recall from the last calendar development cycle, after the school board had voted to reject the proposed calendars, the committee returned with the same calendars. Accordingly, to have an effect, you should submit input before the calendars reach the school board.

The constraints on the calendar include:
186 teacher workdays (180 instruction, 3 staff development, 3 workdays)
Two semesters roughly equal length
Accommodates academic/program needs to support learning and growth at all grades
Considers staff , student, parent input
Members of the current committee are PAEA- Denise Dauler, Laura Lajeunesse, Radu Toma, John Fredrich, CSEA- Targe Lindsay, Ruta Henard, Raquel Faustino, Administration- Scott Bowers, David Johnson.

Posted by Paly,Jordan,Addison parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 7, 2006 at 11:12 am

I'm just hoping that this time the committee listens to the input--last time around, the school board, after listening to a lot of comments from parents, sent the calendar back to the committee for revision, and they chose not to revise it.

With three kids in the district, and as a full-time working mother, the school calendar has a huge effect on my life. I am horrified that the trend seems to be to start earlier and earlier in August--when the last calendar pushed the August start to the 21st of the month, I thought that would be a bad situation to tough out for two years, but then it would get better, now it seems the committee, at least, is leaning towards making it worse.

Why do I favor a late start? For one, I've got family scattered around the country. I want my children to spend time with their cousins, and the time I can make that happen is August.

Second, the work-world slows down in August; it's easy for me to take vacation time then. By contrast, June is a just-before-summer push in many fields, I have no chance of getting vacation in June.

Also, as a working parent, I need to have my children in summer programs. I look for programs that provide truly enriching educational experiences, not just daycare. And, as good as some of our Palo Alto programs are, after 2nd grade or so, Palo Alto doesn't have all that much to offer; the truly enriching programs draw from many different communities--so typically aren't available until the end of June. As I look ahead towards university or internationally-based educational opportunities for a high schooler, I see them available in July and August--not June. Getting out early in June doesn't give me family time, doesn't give me educational opportunities--it will just give me a major headache.

The argument I'm hearing for an earlier and earlier start is to give our kids more time in school before AP tests (should we really force every family in our school district to accommodate a small minority? And yes, my kids will be taking AP tests, and I may expect them to study in the summer, but I don't expect AP tests to dominate every decision). I also hear that teachers, again, high school teachers, want to get finals week over with before the winter holidays. Well, having watched a child go through a finals week for the first time this year, I think that's crazy. The kids in this town study for finals--every activity shuts down and they focus. Finals week hit this year just after Martin Luther King Day--a quiet three-day study weekend. That quiet study time just doesn't map with the chaos a typical family experiences before the holidays--elementary school concerts, parties, religious activities, etc. My family is stressed enough before the holidays; I can't imagine dropping a kid studying for finals into that chaos.

So my vote: as late a summer start as possible (I supposed after Labor Day is asking for too much, but can we at least get back to just one week before labor day?); no ski week, minimized random holidays (funny how the kids have all sorts of days off in the few weeks just after school starts), and ending in June whenever is convenient (but not moving to an earlier end at the sacrifice of a late start).

Posted by Pamela Weiss
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 7, 2006 at 12:45 pm

I would prefer to eliminate "ski" week in favor of a "longer" summer.

Pamela Weiss
Escondido Spanish Immersion Program Parent

Posted by Julie Greicius
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2006 at 1:51 pm

Three vacations lasting one week or more within the same 3/4 month period (December-April) is just too many, especially with long weekends and days off in between. I am all for eliminating ski week.

Posted by a new parent with kids entering pausd
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 7, 2006 at 2:47 pm

As a working parent, with a working spouse, irregular starts and stops during the school year are very difficult to handle. It's much easier to hire help, or to find programs that run over a longer period, i.e. summer, than it is to find help for one week here, one week there during the school year.

This past year, ski week was a frantic time for all of the parents I know - most did not go skiing or on holiday, but found themselves scrambling to entertain their kids during this break.

I agree with many of the comments made by the professorville parent above regarding late starts (after August) and mid June completion, with a minimal number of days/weeks off during the year.

Posted by Addison-Jordan-Paly Mom
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 7, 2006 at 4:06 pm

Instead of a ski week break, how about more three-day weekends: we have found those short breaks to be more effective at easing homework stresses and affording just enough extra breathing space to recharge ourselves without getting altogether out of the habit of the daily school schedule, which makes the return to school a lot easier.

Going back to a later start in August would get us closer to the ideal schedule, though I don't know if that could accommodate the required number of teaching days. Perhaps we could ditch some of those standardized tests to regain instructional days and better serve our students and their families and our teachers....Just a pipe-dream?

Posted by larry wai
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 7, 2006 at 4:42 pm

No ski week. a longer summer vacation is better

Posted by Duveneck, Jordan parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 7, 2006 at 5:30 pm

I have several concerns with the current PAUSD calender which includes an earlier August start, a late June finish, several long weekends throughout the year, and a ski week.

1. As a working parent, many short vacations are harder for my family to manage than one long summer.
2. I have a child with a learning disability, and the frequent starts and stops in the school curriculum and calendar are difficult for my child. Each time school starts up again, she has to "relearn" many of the lessons and techniques that she had mastered only one month earlier. Continuity is so important for children with learning disabilities and I believe the current calendar is a huge learning obstacle.
3. I have family across the country and summer has traditionally been a time for family visits, summer camp and adventures that we otherwise couldn't accomplish during the year. Many of these experiences are important learning opportunities such as month long volunteer positions, or lengthy visits with foreign cousins speaking another language. We have been unable to do these kinds of activities this summer and next due to the school calendar.

Most importantly, I believe the school district has done a huge communication disservice to the community. I don't know anyone who really understands the rationale for the current calender with the ski week. What are the important reasons and how do they stack up against the many that I have heard and read among Palo Alto parents?

Posted by Kirsten Luehrs, Escondido and PSF parent (x3)
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 7, 2006 at 5:43 pm

As a part-time, but professional and have-to-work parent, with a full-time working spouse, we use the school day to work and earn a living. Irregular days off, early dismissal days, and multiple "child-care-nightmare" weeks [also known as spring break and ski week] cause our family a great deal of stress. Please eliminate as much of these as possible. Pick a date to start and a date to end, and keep it consistent all the way through. We'll deal with the summer ourselves, with camps, etc., regardless of how long it is.

Posted by JLS parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 7, 2006 at 6:05 pm

Did anyone go to the meeting today who can give us a brief summary of what direction the committee is headed?

Posted by New parent with kids entering pausd, Walter Hays
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 7, 2006 at 9:54 pm

As a working parent, I don't have the time, money nor desire for a ski week (not to mention the other random holidays). I would rather my kids have the play time/down time and summer program opportunities of a longer summer. Plus, I heard that the short summer is hard on administrators - not much time to get ready for the next year.

Posted by Tyler Hanley
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 8, 2006 at 10:29 am

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

According to an e-mail sent this morning to the Paly freshman parent e-mail group, here is a summary of the calendar committee meeting that took place yesterday, written by school board member Mandy Lowell:

At the calendar committee meeting today, I learned a few things including:

The committee is still in the drafting stage; they plan to present a draft calendar to teachers and parents in September, and get feedback during pubic meetings as well as written response. Members seem to agree that the draft calendar should have an attached rationale explaining why it is configured the way it is, including stop and start dates.
Having reviewed tabulations of the several hundred emails submitted on the calendar, the committee heard a strong preference to “not shortchange summer” and condense the academic year.  A goal in drafting the calendar is to restore a longer summer.
Although I did not see the figures, it appeared that input on the February break was mixed, but overall the feedback was 2:1 against. Adding feedback on this pilot, a teacher mentioned that his students are finding it more difficult to complete curriculum toward the end of the year. It seemed that the February break had already been discussed in prior meetings, and it appears that the committee concluded that the break had not succeeded in its purpose.  
To relieve secondary student stress, facilitate learning, pursue the goal raised in the WASC self-study report, complete more curriculum before AP tests, and respond to long-standing requests, the committee is analyzing whether finals can be placed before winter break. In a poll of 1,023 Paly students, 69% of the students wanted finals before break.
The Ed Code specifies dates for Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, which essentially makes schools have two holidays, in contrast to the single Presidents’ Day. Sounds like an opportunity for a Legislator to make a sensible update to the Code. Anyway, this requirement for schools to be closed on two days in February is probably the reason that so many schools just give a week off, or have 2 four day weeks in a row.
There is some effort made to align spring break with Stanford's calendar.
Bottom line is a draft calendar will likely be publicized for review in September. It will be distributed to PAEA site reps, papers, and schools for feedback, at least a month, likely over two months, before an actual calendar is proposed for approval. The next Calendar Committee meeting is August 30, 3-5 pm, which is when a configuration of a draft calendar will be agreed upon for distribution.  While the committee is composed of teachers (PAEA) , staff (CSEA) and administrators, committee members did discuss the experience of their own kids, as well as students. Their goals for configuring calendars appeared to be derived from the community input. They were quite clear that they were open to changes to whatever they present.

Posted by Mother of three
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 10, 2006 at 12:08 pm

YES for ski week

Ski week is our best family builder. We love it! It is an opportunity to do something together, as a family, in a relaxed atmosphere. Don’t take it away!

Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 10, 2006 at 12:09 pm

Stress in school age children is a growing phenomena. A weeklong breather, with or with ski, is an excellent way to break the stressful routine and recharge. It’s been implemented successfully at neighboring (award winning!) school districts.
Please, don't take Ski week away!

Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 10, 2006 at 12:10 pm

Stress in school age children is a growing phenomena. A weeklong breather, with or with ski, is an excellent way to break the stressful routine and recharge. It’s been implemented successfully at neighboring (award winning!) school districts.
Please, don't take Ski week away!

Posted by Pauline Navarro
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 15, 2006 at 2:24 pm

Though I understand the concerns of those who want to get rid of that ski week, I love the idea of a "ski week". However, I didn't get to use it to go anywhere this last year. With a very disabled kid needing to be in a special ski school when we go to the mountains, it was impossible to actually use the ski week for skiing because everyone else has the same week off, and thus everything, including special ski school, is full. Even without this issue, it is the busiest week of the whole year, and so everything is packed, and more expensive.

So, if we can pick a week that is less impacted, I would support keeping a ski week, but otherwise I would say to dump it and just have several 3-4 day week-ends in addition to the President's day weekend. At least then we could go somewhere.

Thanks, Pauline Navarro

Posted by Pauline Navarro
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 15, 2006 at 2:26 pm

As for finals before winter break, I am completely for making sure they happen before the winter break, so our High Schoolers can actually REST over winter break, instead of study.

Thanks, Pauline Navarro

Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 23, 2006 at 3:17 pm

Why is the calendar pushing farther and farther into August? It was my understanding that the school year start was pushed into August to accommodate AP schedules and the additional week added by state a few years ago.

AP classes affect only a small percentage of PAUSD students. Long standing August family gatherings are no longer possible with this early start. High school AP classes already assign summer work. There are many other means such as online homework and reviews for the AP classes to get an early start without forcing the whole district to work to that schedule.

Regarding the additional school year days added a few years ago, most families I speak with would prefer pushing the extra week into June and have all of July and August off.

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