Tomorrow morning, students in the majority of the Local District 1 high schools will return to school. Their siblings in middle school and elementary, as well as the vast majority of high schools in the rest of LAUSD won’t start until September 7th.

These are the weeks I cherish. Other parts of the country do start school in mid to late August, and the Southern California tourist venues start to empty out, leaving them free for the locals to attend crowd-free. This may very well be the last long summer my daughter can enjoy. Next year, it’s likely that the district will push all schools to the early calendar and make their school year run from around August 15 through June 1(ish).

For the folks that love the “Early Start” calendar, good for you. The push to start the kids in the middle of August has been going on for nearly 10 years. School board member Jon Lauritzen held community meetings that skewered the idea. PE teachers warned that they would be forced to waste even more days due to inclement weather (the kind where it’s too hot to actually do anything), parents were concerned about heat days keeping active children inside for recess and lunch for days on end, and summer camps warned about their inability to provide staffing. The only “up” side was for the few high school students who took classes at the community college since they had a harder time getting classes (although some community colleges had two sessions) and that the AP students would have a full three weeks more of class time and less time to waste after their tests were taken. Since community college and AP students are such a small group of the over all LAUSD population, and the concerns were real, it was quickly tabled.

I’ll admit, I’ve been out of the high school scene a few years as my son is in college, but a few years ago, I heard the proposal was gaining traction again–this time coming from the schools. Several of the highly regarded charter high schools had already changed their calendar, and the pressure was mounting from nearby schools to be able to compete with them. As I heard the high schools in Local District I were all on board, I panicked. The reality is families in multiple schools will be the tie breaker on this one, because even if they hate the new schedule, they will not want to have their lives disrupted and only a few week’s vacation overlapping. That inconvenience was what really killed year-round schools anywhere they could afford to get rid of multiple tracks.

There was a false start. The entire district had hoped to go Early Start this year. However, outside of LD 1, so few parents had even heard of the plan, the Westside parents fought back, and coupled with UTLA’s discussions behind the scenes, it was decided to postpone the early start. My daughter gets at least a one-year reprieve before I start looking elsewhere to educate her.

The proponents talk about better “test scores,” but anyone with a link to the state board of education website will realize that state testing is conducted at the point in the year where 85% of the days are completed. Start three weeks earlier, and standardized testing will start at the very end of April, and there will still be that “dead” time after testing that everyone laments. They’ll mention that midterms are taken before the holiday break and the students can enjoy their break. Does any parent in their right mind actually believe teachers won’t be assigning novels to read and projects to do? Since few classes are a semester only, the teachers who will see them again in January will still load them up with stuff to do if that’s what they plan to do. And the oddest part, the first semester is still woefully shorter than the second semester. No one has been able to explain that to me.

I’m never going to be a fan of “Early Start.” I just wish the school communities that want it could switch, and those complexes who want to wait to see the actual results could wait a few years for the data, rather than the district telling us what’s good for the kids without any real proof. I’m not convinced that the longer hours of sun during mid-August and that increased potential for “indoor recess” will provide any academic benefit to younger students. Or worse, the parents with plans for late August trips will just check out anyway, with no regard for their students or their schools Average Daily Attendance figures.

I’d still rather see the district eliminate the third week at Winter Break. And as long as we have furlough days that have not been allotted for 2011-12, my only request is that they place them at the end of the school year, so that they don’t destroy the concept of a summer break. My kid is still actively engaged in activities every single day–but they just don’t require her to be up early. Cut into the summer, and it does cut into what she can accomplish.

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2 Responses to Welcome Back to School?

  1. Jose says:

    My daugter would like to go a private school but the school needs 2 reference letters. As I hear, public schools do not give such letter (one must be from princiapl). What is your advice? The admissions are coming up.

    • I’m not aware of schools not giving recommendation letters. I’d just ask for a letter from her current teacher and the principal. If they refuse, contact the private school you’re interested in and ask their advice for what they are looking for. Good luck.

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