The NUSD newsletter for February, released yesterday, touches on several key issues. If you're like me, the first item is what you glommed onto and focused on most intently. The re-drawing of boundaries within the entire facility plan is huge and merits that focus, of course. Thankfully, we've got two more community meetings (Feb. 15 and March 6) and who-knows-how-many Board of Trustees meetings to learn more and provide input. There's also the email to which you can send comments and questions.
But there's another big issue under consideration right now, and that concerns the academic calendar. The newsletter notes, "The Calendar Committee has been meeting and reviewing calendars for the 2013-14. Three drafts of the 2013-14 calendar are available for your review."
The newsletter points out some of the proposed changes, which include "starting and ending school one week earlier to balance the days between the fall and spring semester; placing staff development days near an already 3-day weekend to address the loss of ADA (Average Daily Attendance) the district experiences during those times; and eliminating the mid-Winter (February) break."
We're asked to direct any comments or questions by Feb. 17 to our school principals, who in turn will relay those onto the Calendar Committee. You can access the draft calendars by navigating to the "Calendars" under the "About NUSD" tab in the upper bar.
I think the calendar is something we should all be concerned about. Here is how each one looks. (I've saved you the time of heading over to NUSD's site by uploading the PDFs of each.)
The Circle calendar is essentially status quo: the first day of school would be Aug. 21 and the last day of school would be June 12. Ski Week (known officially as Mid-winter Break) would stay. For high school, first semester would total 79 days while second semester would equal 100 days.
The Triangle calendar moves the first day of school up to Aug. 14 and has the last day of school as June 5. Ski week would stay. High school first semester would be 84 days and second semester would be 96 days.
The Square calendar, like the Triangle calendar, moves the first day of school up to Aug. 14. But the last day of school is May 29 and Ski Week is eliminated. The length of each high school semester is the same as under the Triange calendar scenario (84 days first semester and 96 days second semester).
It's amazing how our perspectives change as our kids age. (No, that's not a recent epiphany.) I completely buy into the concept of having relatively equal first and second semesters now that I've got a kid in high school, so I appreciate that being given consideration.
But let's not forget how much of the second semester is thrown away on STAR testing, either the actual testing which goes on for 10 school days, or the complete teaching to the test and practicing for the test that leads up to that. I'm going to hazard a guess that the lead-up takes the equivalent amount of time as the testing itself. In my mind, then, we've got it pretty balanced as it stands right now.
I also believe eliminating Ski Week will have an impact on that third item in the February newsletter: the loss of revenue due to absences. I buy into the oft-repeated line of reasoning that Ski Week was introduced in select school districts around the country because more and more parents were pulling their kids out of school around the Presidents' Day Weekend and taking them skiing, resulting in -- wait for it -- a loss of revenue due to absences.
I'm not sure the option of eliminating Ski Week and ending school earlier is worth doing. Not to mention, as someone said to me today, the weather sucks around here in June, so why not have 'em in school until the middle of the month?
What do you think? Nuke Ski Week? Start school in mid-August? STAR testing isn't a factor on the number of "value" instructional days in the second semester? I should just shut up and focus on the boundaries? I should just shut up?