Proposed school calendars released Schools & Kids, posted by Paly parent, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2006 at 8:58 am
The school district has released the proposed school calendars for the next two years and shows continued early starts in August, semester finals before the Christmas holiday break, no ski week and school getting out early in June. It looks like they've basically eliminated ski week in order to have school get out earlier in June.
Two community forums are scheduled to hear community input on the evenings of Sept. 27 and 28.
I'm still frustrated that we can't start school after Labor Day. Frankly, I'd rather do that than move semester finals to before Christmas. This is probably one of those issues where you're view depends on whether you have high school or younger kids.
Posted by Pauline Navarro, a member of the Juana Briones School community, on Sep 18, 2006 at 1:56 pm
I think you are right about the views about ending the semester before "winter break" being dependent on whether you have older or younger kids.
I have both, and am delighted if we end the semester before mid-December. It was awful last year to watch my then-freshman feel like he had to work on our vacation to prep for finals. When I grew up, our semesters always ended before what we used to call Christmas break, and I was very grateful for the true rest.
Posted by another Paly parent, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2006 at 2:47 pm
As a parent of two high-schoolers, I find that the current calendar limits our kids' summer activities. The summer now starts too late and is too short. I don't really care whether school starts before or after Labor Day.
Older students often travel nowadays to participate in out-of-the-area summer activities, and the current calendar has preventsed one of ours from doing what he used to do - a particular activity in another state. Students in that activity came one year from 6 states, all of them finished school before PAUSD, and that was before they moved the finish to a later date! I can't get the organization to schedule the activity later just because of the PAUSD schedule - our student just gets to miss out on it. I am certain other students are being limited in their summer activity choices, too, because of the short summer.
Posted by Carol, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2006 at 3:40 pm
I am very disappointed in the new calendar. Yes, we have got rid of ski week. But, starting on 18th August and ending 4th June, is getting ridiculous. We may as well end before Memorial Day!!
I have high schoolers, middle and elementary schoolers and this just makes little sense. We have opportunities to study and join in with other activities abroad which can't be done when high schoolers have to be back mid August (many activities in high school start the week before the official start of school). We have been asked to house swap for the month of August (or find another family to double up with) and no Palo Alto family can do this. Friends had a big family wedding to attend late August (when the rest of the Northern hemisphere is off school) this year with family travelling to India from all over the world. They had to take time off school for this family re-union!!
Why can't we do what we used to do. Start school in September and end mid June without all the breaks. Maybe all the teachers could be developed and the local holidays could all take place late August and then we could have a normal, global summer break. At the same time, why can't end of semester exams take place before the winter break and then we could do without the semester break which is absolutely pointless for grades k - 6.
Posted by Anon, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Sep 18, 2006 at 8:30 pm
For the record, it looks like we didn't really get rid of ski week--we we just got rid of PART of it! There's still a FIVE-day weekend scheduled in February. This is ridiculous. I agree with Carol--give us August back! My teenagers have all sorts of interesting things to do in August (music camps, summer job, family reunion). And work slows down for grownups in August, so it's easy to take vacation. Not so in June.
Also, it looks like we're stuck with yet another short summer this coming year, because kids get out in mid-June and start back mid-August. This is the third year in a row! If we must have this new calendar, couldn't we at least cut back on some of the first-semester days off to delay the start by a few days??
Posted by Yong, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 19, 2006 at 1:49 pm
Carol said...."I am very disappointed in the new calendar. Yes, we have got rid of ski week. But, starting on 18th August and ending 4th June, is getting ridiculous. We may as well end before Memorial Day!!"
I agree. And further, the school's for the most part (if any) DON'T have air conditioning. So here we have kids and teachers returning to school practically in the MIDDLE of summer. It's absurd! If you're going to ask kids and teachers to do that, put air conditioning in the schools!
Does 25 Churchill have air conditioning? hmmmmmm....
Posted by Jeff, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Sep 19, 2006 at 8:06 pm
Why are we still behind in our thinking about schooling for our kids. Most of Europe and Asia go to school longer than our kids and are far more advanced due to this fact. We should be asking the school district to break away from the old agricultural school calendar and get into a much needed modern school calendar.
Posted by Periwinkle, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 19, 2006 at 10:08 pm
It's not quite accurate - in this circumstance - to be comparing European and American education. Comparisons favoring Europe K-12 education over American K-12 education *might* be made in general. With that as a gievn, Palo Alto educates its students as well as most high end private academies.
So, in general, yuor argument has merit, but it doesn't quite apply to the better public high schools, or our private K-12 academies.
Posted by A.J., a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Sep 19, 2006 at 10:55 pm
I'm not sure the comparison with European schools is fair -- as long as I've been around, the depth and breadth of their curricula have been more advanced, they generally support their schools better and provide better physical resources. That said, all of my family in Europe take long vacations in summer months -- August is usually one long vacation.
More time in school beyond a certain point isn't necessarily better even here. MIT was a pretty intense place -- I seem to recall school starting around labor day, with a four day weekend every month, six weeks off from mid-December through END of January -- finals definitely before Christmas break -- a week spring break, and ending soon enough for a long summer job or vacation. You don't have to go longer if you make good use of the time -- a good lesson at any age.
I think Labor Day is a good time to start school, just after mid-August is just too early.
Posted by A Paly Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 20, 2006 at 10:14 pm
Our family of middle & high schoolers hates starting school in mid-August and dreads adding finals to the holiday rush. We much prefer summer extending in August and starting mid-June.
Unfortunately, I fear the train has left the station on this one. Apparently high school students were surveyed last year and 70+% favored finals before the holidays....and the Stressed Out Students committee (the group that brought us inconsequential "no homework" nights) made a recommendation to the calendar committee that finals before the holidays would reduce stress. We might have to endure the two year trial to prove that pre-holiday finals are actually MORE stressful and to highlight the unpopularity of school starting in the middle of August. The PAUSD decision-making machine is like a barge moving downstream -- it gathers momentum even if heading astray and is very hard to turn around.
Posted by Another Paly Parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2006 at 9:43 am
A Paly Parent - I wonder why your high schoolers would dread adding finals to the holiday rush. What exactly are their responsibilities for the holidays? Are they really all that involved in cooking for parties and buying presents?
Both sides of our family are out of town and we often spend the Winder break visiting them. My two high schoolers love the idea of having their break free, without having to worry about studying for finals and finishing projects. I guess we are among the 70% who think finishing up before break is going to be less stressful.
Posted by Paly parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2006 at 11:38 am
Palo Verde neighborhood parent -
They need to have 180 instructional days in the school year. Also, I assume that they want to end spring semester on the Thurs of the last week of classes as they always have. Since the fall semester is limited to 84 days from pushing the finals to before winter break, the spring semester is set at 96 days. I assume they tacked on the day off to spring break because it wouldn't make sense to put it anywhere else. Also, it's pretty standard to either have a minimum day or a day off before a long break.
Removing the staff development after Labor Day won't work because the schedule is required to accomodate 3 staff development days and 3 teacher work days. The staff development days are usually tacked on to student breaks/holidays, and the work days are typically before semester starts and after it ends.
You should send email to email@example.com pointing out the error in the Sept 2007 day count.
Posted by A Paly Parent, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2006 at 1:32 pm
Our student's holiday rush includes band concerts, singing concerts, basketball and anticipating eventful time with family. We also travel to see distant family. There is no homework assigned over breaks. I wonder what percentage of students actually study over winter break -- don't know if that was included in the student survey. I wonder if the concept of "finishing up" is more important the the exams themselves. Some schools have given up mid-year finals altogether as a proven means to reduce stress, calculating first semester grades on other assessments. Why not eliminate finals, give us back some summer and add back 6 days of instruction time that is currently devoted on exam prep/testing?
Posted by A Palo Alto parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 21, 2006 at 1:57 pm
First, I think it would be unbalanced to eliminate only first semester finals. After all, many classes just run for one semester. Why have a final only in courses that run in the spring?
I think that the idea of completely dispensing with finals is a non-starter, for the following reasons:
The only schools that I know of that have gotten rid of finals completely are private schools with small student populations. In schools where the class size is 10-15, the teachers have the time to rely on "other assessments" to calculate grades. I don't see how this would work in a public school setting.
Finals are a good way to get kids to review the subject one last time before moving on to new material. Otherwise they just study it once, for the in-term test or quiz. Hopefully that second review "cements" the content a little better.
Finally, when kids go to college they will have to deal with finals, so they might as well learn to deal with it in high school.
Posted by Anon, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2006 at 10:14 pm
I don't have any kids in high school yet, but I do remember applying to college over 20 years and NOT applying to Harvard simply b/c finals were after Christmas. The stress would have really bothered me. In retrospect, it would have been no big deal, but at that age and after studying so hard and stressing over finals, I really didn't need that. I feel for those kids who just want it over to enjoy Christmas, without worry about finals.
Posted by Paly student, a resident of Stanford, on Sep 26, 2006 at 7:59 pm
I think the new calendar fails to address a few key points.
First, its' ridiculous to expect students (and teachers) to return to school in the middle of August. The system is completely out of sync with the precedent of school starting later, and interferes with many peoples summer plans. For the first few weeks of school this year, I felt that everyone was simply taking it easy because it was August, and nobody wanted to work. Talk about a good beginning.
Secondly, finals before winter break do nobody a favor. If students feel obliged to study during winter break, that's their own issue. For me, I know that I certainly haven't "studied" for finals over winter break, although I have worked to catch up on hw - and needed that time badly. I doubt that teachers would curb the amount of work due at the end of first semester simply because the timetable is turned back a few weeks, but students definitely need a breather before finals.
Finally, why does school always begin on a Monday? It is exhausting for students, teachers, and parents alike to start school with a bang and last until the weekend. For high school students, who have to get supplies the first week of school, it's additionally stressing because the work load begins immediately. There's no weekend to go home, review the syllabus of each class, and properly organize according to the teacher's wishes.
Posted by parent, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Sep 28, 2006 at 4:52 pm
Really lame. Our family doesn't have much to spend on vacations. We take one week for the whole year, and its a simple trip to Tahoe. Did you know that you can't swim in Lake Tahoe during June because its still too cold (weather in the high 60s, low 70s still). But EVERYONE goes in July - it unbearably crowded for a vacation - miserable. So that leaves two weeks to choose from in August. And its really tough to go on your one and only vacation the week before school starts.
Its also out of sync with family members from other parts of northern California, who we could otherwise visit with. But this wacky schedule cuts us out of the ability to do that in June (the first couple weeks of our summer break they're still in school) and August (we're back in - they still have summer). Its all screwed up.
And its hotter than *&^% in late August. The kids should be having summer in August! Why is that so hard to understand? My kids sit around in a daze if it gets over 90.
And hey, guess what. A whole bunch of us work for a living so excessive days off in the middle of the year are just fodder for alot kids hanging around with nothing to do.
so congratulations to all those families out there (and teachers who get school holidays off), who can make something out of all these weird days off. Its just an annoying waste for the rest of us - including the kids. Let us use our summer holiday break to the best advantage, and hit the 'normal' school year running.
Posted by Frustrated parent, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Sep 29, 2006 at 7:55 pm
It's clear that this proposed schedule is being driven by some perceived high school needs (not necessarily truly needs), without much regard for other needs. A few comments on this --
1) Any thought to differentiating the high school calendar from all others? Then the rest of us could have our August off again -- at least until we have high-schoolers. (By then, perhaps it will have become clear that starting in mid-Aug with finals in Dec is MORE, not less, stressful. Let's not forget that college apps must also be in by Dec 31 or Jan 1 -- so just pile on the stress with finals too! So hopefully this messy calendar experiment will be fixed after 2 more years of pain -- if not right now.)
2) Since AP exams are also driving this, let's wonder for a minute whether it really makes a difference for tests taken in MAY, whether the student started studying in mid or late August. There are many schools where students are still quite successful on APs even when starting after Labor Day, of course. And there are years of proven successes behind this.
3) When the high-schoolers were polled about their schedule preference for finals, were they also asked if they preferred starting school in mid-August to achieve earlier finals? I suspect that given that choice, they would have chosen later finals.
4) It appears that more effort should be placed on finding EFFECTIVE methods of reducing student stress -- not just a few no-homework nights (ridiculous), and now a crazy skewed calendar. How about less emphasis on finals overall? Perhaps the SOS organization could become a bit more creative here, with help from some high school parents and teachers.
I hope that everyone who is writing and reading these entries is also sending comments NOW to firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as these calendar committee members and school board members: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Write now -- there's no time to lose on this.
Posted by Christine, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2006 at 1:13 pm
I graduated last June from Paly, and did it with finals after winter break. They were incredibly aggrivating. After a two-week break, we (the students) were pushed back into everything full-force, expected to remember everything that had happened two weeks ago with perfect precision. Plus in AP classes (and some regular ones), final-review homework would be assigned over the break making it much less relaxing then it should be. I was in favor, and still am, in having finals before winter break.
This is how it is done in college; shouldn't this be the way it is always done? If Palo Alto schools are all about preparing you for the top Ivy League institution, then shouldn't exams be administered at the same times in college? It would both help relieve stress and help the transition to college life.
I think that there will be opponents who want school to start in summer, but given that that is happening already, we might as well have finals before winter break and then spend the two weeks of holidays relaxing.
Posted by Paly Mom, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Sep 30, 2006 at 7:45 pm
I wonder if Christine remembers just how busy last December was before winter break with homework projects, class parties, choir rehearsals and performances, college applications and asking teachers for referral letters, apart from the class parties and other holiday activities at school, let alone the family and outside school activities that are scheduled in December. Adding to this list finals in subjects that are going to continue through second semester can only add to stress for the whole family (as when one teenager in the family is stressed, the contagion spreads to the whole family). The only time we really need first semester finals is in subjects that are semester classes only. Maybe this should be the solution here.
Posted by Eileen, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 30, 2006 at 10:11 pm
Starting school on August 18th severely compromises family time. August is a traditional vacation month and/or slowed down work period not just in America, but also in many other countries. Why don't families organize and refuse to send our children to school at the district's arbitrary start time? I propose that for Fall of 2007 we send them one week after August 18th and for Fall of 2008 we send them two weeks after August 18th. We are the ones with the children - if we refuse to comply with something so many of us disagree with perhaps the district will listen.
Posted by Aly, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Nov 5, 2006 at 6:55 pm
I am a student from Palo Alto High and am actually writing a news brief about the Calendar Committee's decision. I am all for getting out earlier in June, but the thought of going to school on August 18th makes me shudder. I am a senior this year, so I fortunately will not have to deal with that, but I know for a fact that going back to school in the middle of August will piss a lot of students off. I am a little frustrated by this decision. Even though we got rid of the Ski Week, the school year does not seem any shorter. The only reason students complained about it in the first place was we had to start school earlier. It seems to me that nothing has really changed for the better.
However, I am extremely excited about having semester exams before winter break. For the ignorant parents who could possibly think exams would be better after the break, where are you coming from? A two week long break is the perfect opportunity to forget everything you have learned from the previous three months, and frankly just puts tons of pressure on students to study during the break. I thought it was supposed to be a vacation? Colleges and pretty much every well-functioning schools hold their exams before winter break, why has is taken us this long to adopt it?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2006 at 1:52 pm
The news is out. The calendar is set. We don't have ski week. We don't go back as early as mid August. We don't have pre winter break finals.
There is probably good and bad news for most of us in this. I want to thank the Board for listening to all our views and sorting this out. Also thanks to Scott Bowers who did the thankless task of overseeing all this and listening to all the various views.
I suggest we look at the possitive aspects and be pleased that at least we know what the calendar will look like for the next couple of years and when the next time for discussion comes round, we will see how this worked out and go on from there.