Editorial: Schedule should stay the same

Editors’ Note: The original version of this editorial misrepresented the lengths of each calendar option’s scheduled October break and summer break. The proposed change would have a three-day weekend in October, whereas the current schedule has a four-day weekend in October. Both options have a summer break with a length of about ten weeks. The following editorial has been updated to reflect these changes.

Tomorrow night, the Palo Alto Board of Education will meet to vote and decide on the school calendar that will be effective for the next three years, beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. The Paly Voice believes that the current calendar schedule is very practical, and there is no reason for it to change.

The first calendar option, and the one that we support, is to keep the current calendar. This includes starting school on a Thursday in early to mid-August and ending either right before or just after Memorial Day weekend. It also includes a four-day break in October.

The second option is the school board’s proposed schedule change that moves the start date to the next Monday for high school and to the next Tuesday for K-8 students. Winter break is then extended by one day for grades 9-12. Under this calendar, the October break is shortened to three days and other extra holidays during the spring are added. The combined changes cause the school calendar to end later in the year.

There are four key reasons why we believe the current schedule should not be changed: a preferable start date, the necessity of an October break, an increased summer break and consistency between elementary and secondary schools. Below is our rationale:

  1. Starting school on a Thursday is preferable to Monday because it allows students to more easily ease back into school. The weekend separating the first two days and the first full week of school gives students more time to correct scheduling errors without missing too many class periods. The schedule change also proposes that the first week of school be composed of five C-days, where all seven classes meet per day. When students must attend all seven classes in a single day, they become overloaded with homework and student stress levels rise. A complete week of C-days would be extremely difficult for students at any time of the year, and returning to this schedule after two months of vacation would become a nightmare for students, teachers and families alike. This proposed schedule is a more difficult transition into the school year than the current plan, and leaves students with more work during a time where many schedule changes could occur.

  2. The proposed schedule takes away the four-day weekend in October, which currently provides a much-needed break during the early months of the school year. This fall break is very important to allow students to catch up on work and sleep. It is especially beneficial for seniors who are balancing college applications and schoolwork. Moving this break to the spring is not as helpful because with the week-long Spring Break and various three-day weekends already woven into the calendar, students have sufficient access to breaks. The fall semester hits students, especially seniors, with the most stress; the proposed October three-day weekend does not give students time to recharge, as at least two of those three days would be spent doing homework. A four-day break gives students and families the opportunity to take a true break from school, allowing students to return to class refreshed.

  3. If the proposed option were to pass, the summer of 2015 would be shortened from 76 to 73 days. Although extra long weekends in the spring compensate for the days taken out of the summer vacation period, longer summers are preferable because they allow for a more solid block of vacation time. Adding extra three-day weekends in the spring just elongates the school year. Summers are a time when students finally get a sustained break to relax, travel, pursue extra-curriculars and experience learning found outside the classroom. This summer period should be kept open as long as possible.

  4. Finally, the school board’s proposal offers distinct schedules for K-8 students and 9-12 students. This inconsistency is a major inconvenience for the many families who have children of multiple ages because it makes scheduling family activities near impossible.

These four reasons are why The Paly Voice believes the calendar should not change. The pilot schedule of the last two years has worked well, whereas the new schedule produces multiple problems for students and their families. We ask the Board of Education to renew the current school calendar for the next two years so that students, families and staff members may continue to follow a schedule that has been proven a success.

The School Board will hold meet from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. tomorrow night at the Staff Development Center at 25 Churchill Avenue.