Last week, students were stuck in classrooms as county health officials declared a heat alert in parts of the district, including the San Fernando Valley. The District used to be on what one teacher called the “Oh my God, it’s hot in L.A. in August” calendar and started school after Labor Day, but not anymore. In an effort led by failed Board Member Tamar Galatzan, the calender was changed several years ago “as a way for high school students to complete the first semester before winter break.” Board President Steve Zimmer agreed saying that “instruction is best aligned when [students] do not have...that extended gap during the first semester.” What the District never answered is why the students even have that extended gap.
Under the current schedule, students are given a three week break for the end of the year holidays, stretching from December 21 to January 8. This long break is much too intrusive to the learning process whether or not it breaks up the first semester. Future schedules should reduce this break so that the first day of break is on Christmas Eve and students return with the workforce on January 2. In this year’s calendar, this would have returned eight of the 16 days stolen from the students’ summer. Returning parity to the two semesters (currently there are only 79 days during the first semester and 101 days in the second semester) would ensure that mid-term exams do not occur too close to the break.
The District could make up an additional three days by reducing the week-long Thanksgiving break. The additional days were added as furlough days during the Great Recession. With those dark days behind us, the District needs to return to a schedule that mimics those of most workplaces where Thursday and Friday are the only days off.
Another two days are automatically regained through reverting to the traditional schedule as both the Labor Day and Admissions Day holidays would no longer be school holidays. Returning to school the day after Labor Day would add one more day. The last two days are harder to find, but could be added back to the end of the school year. If necessary, Veterans’ day is a holiday where most parents have to work and adding back to the school schedule would leave one less day where parents have to scramble for childcare options, fight with the boss for the day off or leave the children home unattended.
If any action is going to be taken, it needs to be done soon. In the last school year, the Board did not vote on the schedule until March which left little time for interested parties, including summer programs, to make plans. If Monica Ratliff is serious in her declaration that the Board needs “to listen to the public, particularly parents” about the subject, then she needs to push for action. Now would be a good time to start that phone survey that she suggested.