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One School Calendar Option Would Lose Ski Week Break

While we're all looking at what's happening with the boundaries, who is looking at what's going to happen to the school calendars?

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?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Patty Maher February 09, 2012 at 06:17 PM
The problem is with final exams. If we don't start until Labor Day, that pushes the end of first semester and finals into January. I think that leaves the high school kids studying for finals over the Christmas break. That's how it worked for me many, many years ago. I thought it sucked. I'd rather my kids take their finals and then enjoy the holidays and the break. I completely agree with you about the weather in August, but I'd like the compromise of status quo of a late August start and finals done before the winter holiday break.
MarinMom101 February 09, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I'm wondering where finals would fall if we started after Labor Day but eliminated Thanksgiving break? If the two were a wash, we could have the best of both.
Michael Christian February 09, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Patty, My nieces live in another State that got hit by unexpected snowstorms and extra "snowdays" that closed the schools for an unexpected period of time. They were springtime storms and there were not reasonably enough days to schedule at the end of the year. SO ,they added a certain number of minutes per day to the remainder of the school days on the calendar. Would that be a possibility? or would there be NFT issues? 84 days x 25 extra mins = 2,100 eatra mins in the class or about 35 hours.
Likes Facts February 09, 2012 at 06:51 PM
The ADA problem is an easy one to solve. If you take your child out of school for a vacation -- at ANY point during the year, you should have to pay the district to make up the difference. And/or we end this practice of making the teachers/schools give out "make up" packets of the schoolwork -- if your kid misses school because you made a discretionary choice to take them out, then they miss the lessons and they bear the natural consequence. If there is a medical reason (illness, doctor's appointment) that of course would be the exception. But honestly, why do the rest of us have to pay for parents who are making these irresponsible choices?
Patty Maher February 09, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Hey, I like the addition of minutes, but I'm guessing there would be NFT issues, and sports issues. I think that thought and other ideas are all worthwhile ones to consider. Make sure you send a note to the school site principal(s) and have it passed along.
Patty Maher February 09, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I agree, Likes Facts. But let's face it, it would never be able to be implemented, particularly in light of the new world order that says school districts can't make students pay for anything required for their instruction. If you can't make them pay for a $5 recorder, I can't see how you can make them pay the $37 for each day they miss.
Norma Dawson February 09, 2012 at 08:58 PM
I had two children go through NUSD and remember when the "ski" week went into effect. I think we followed Southern Marin with the calender. I never cared for it, usually a week with the kids home in the rain if you were not able to go to Tahoe! And I agree that starting the middle of August is ridiculous. I also agree with the other poster, August is PRIME weather for everything outdoors!
Mark Schoenbaum February 10, 2012 at 02:55 AM
I want them to drop the bogus 'teacher training days' that conveniently turn holidays into 4 days off for the teachers and parents paying more for childcare. This blatent employee 'perk' engineered by the teachers union has to go.
Kristen McAndrew February 10, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Sorry I didn't have time to read it all, but what about "Early Wednesdays"?
Mark Schoenbaum February 10, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Forgot about that one, another 'perk' engineed by the unions...
Mark Schoenbaum February 10, 2012 at 04:39 AM
How about we stop focusing on money (aka ADA) and start focusing on education? Personally I feel that school should be year-round. The custom of having a summer break was originally established so that the children could help a farming family bring in the crops. This is no longer applicable. Since teachers (and administrators) are paid like full time employees we should make them full time employees and stop putting the onus on parents to pay for unnecessary child care so that school employees can have an archaic summer vacation...
Judy Montoya February 10, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Mark has very good points. How about we move into the 21st century. Two income families are barely getting by these days. And while I have a great deal of respect for our wonderful teachers and want them to be compensated well for all of their work and dedication in their profession, let's get real about their hours. In the real world, I don't have the luxury of weeks off in the summer, winter break, ski weeks, spring breaks, 4 day weekends, etc. I would rather my child be educated and spend time in the classroom studying and doing work there rather than bringing home on average 3 hours of homework a night - in 6th grade! Our kids need to be kids sometimes and play with their friends after school; not stuck doing a ridiculous amount of homework in order to compensation for all of the lost hours due to so many days off throughout the school year.
Patty Maher February 10, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I'd be all for a year-round schedule. I know Olive used to have that schedule. I think it must have been eliminated maybe eight years ago. I don't know why, although I have to believe it would be tough if you had multiple kids to have one on a year-round schedule and others on the regular one in middle and high school. But if the whole district went that way, no problem on that score. I think that change goes beyond the purview of a Calendar Committee. But you should definitely send it to your school principal(s) for forwarding up the chain. Or come to a Board of Trustees meeting and ask for them to look into it.
NovatoMom February 10, 2012 at 07:12 PM
How about we make "ski week" just 2 or 3 days off which along with the weekend would allow for a quick trip to Tahoe for those families that enjoy that tradition, while lessening the impact for the majority of parents who have to scramble for childcare coverage during this nonwork holiday timeframe. I think if anything, we should start the school year later, not earlier. August is a much nicer weather time than early June.
Likes Facts February 10, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Patty, I want to thank you for posting this topic, and for such a great summary (forgot to mention that the first time I posted.) For some of the other posters, I'd like to say I would hate for this to turn into a teacher-bashing exercise, particularly since I think your impressions are not entirely accurate. My sister is a teacher. Here's what her standard work day looks like: Arrives in the classroom at 8am for an 8:30 start. Organizes materials prepped the day before. Teaches until school end. After school, organizes the classroom and work she has collected from students. Answers student and parent questions that come at the end of the day. Gathers up items to bring home. Gets home, works on grading/lesson plans until dinner time, feeds family. Puts her own kids to bed, then returns to working until about 10pm. At any given time, this schedule expands to include errands to purchase supplies from her own pocket, planning/grading of special projects, additional research to supplement the curriculum materials with more creative/deeper information, training to improve her teaching skills, etc. etc. etc. And her school year starts earlier than the students and ends later. Vacations and breaks included, it's a full time job averaged out over the year. It's really more of a "flex time" schedule with the time loaded into the school year, with its typical 10+ hour day. When it comes to teachers, what you see is NOT what you get -- you get far more.
Patty Maher February 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Thank you for your comment. (And you're welcome regarding my blog post.) I have to say that your description of your sister's day is what I have observed of all of the teachers my kids have had through their years in NUSD. I appreciate you articulating that so well.
LP February 11, 2012 at 04:53 AM
I don't know how you can see training days as a perk. The last one in January had kindergarten teachers attending a seminar at one location and elementary teachers were invited to a speaker presention at Lynwood. Would you prefer the teachers to use Saturdays to go to these trainings? Don't we want highly trained teachers? I'm sorry, I guess you prefer to dump your kid at daycare then have an excuse to spend quality time with them.
Novato Teacher February 11, 2012 at 05:34 AM
To clarify a few points: When Olive had a "year round" schedule, they still had a significant number of weeks off in the summer (6 or 7). Since they started earlier than the other schools, they had at least a week off in October and I believe some extra time in the spring. All public school children in the state of CA are in school 180 days no matter what your calendar looks like. And on the matter of days, teachers are paid for working those 180 days plus staff development days for a total of 186 days. Unlike many other professions, we have never received paid vacations.
A Novato Parent February 11, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I'd lke them to keep the calendar as is. Although I wish school didn't start in August at all I understand having finals in December. And you're right Parry about STAR testing in May already having the effect of a a couple of weeks off from teaching. If we ended at the end of May like in the third calendar for High School students the last month would be StAR testing then dead week then Finals. I and my children love ski week. We have never skied but for my two children who work hard the break lets them regroup plus I get to spend more time with them.
JT February 11, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I believe the 180 days is a mandatory minimum as far as the State is concerned.... school districts could go over but that would then require negotiations with our employee unions.
Carol Herbstman February 11, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Has anyone noticed that on Draft Circle and Draft Triangle, the "number of days students attend" does not add up to 180?
Patty Maher February 11, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Carol, I hadn't noticed it. Who would have thought we'd have to check addition? Thanks for pointing that out. I'll make sure I quote you in my next comment to the school principals about the proposed calendars.
Carol Herbstman February 11, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Let's not forget all those other activities that occur in May: two weeks of A/P testing, spring sports playoffs, year-end performing art performance just to name a few. Why make May such a crazy month?
Carol Herbstman February 11, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Eliminating the whole week off at Thanksgiving might result in risking ADA funds also.
Nick Williams February 11, 2012 at 07:01 PM
The number of days for each calendar is correct, but in the right hand column, February is mislabeled as 14/15 instead of 15 as it should be. This is probably due to double-counting of President's day as it's own holiday and part of mid-winter break.
Carol Herbstman February 11, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Nick, that's my point, using the numbers on the right hand column as listed, they don't add up to 180. Draft Triangle's spring semester adds up to 97, not 96. Where is the extra day off suppose to go?
Robert Sedor February 12, 2012 at 01:29 AM
If Ski Week and three days of Thanksgiving break were eliminated, school could start after Labor day. I think it makes no sense to have kids go back to school during the warmest part of summer. Novato already pushed up the start of school by a week a few years ago. Let's oppose this attempt to make even earlier.
Novato Parent February 15, 2012 at 09:35 PM
I was an Olive parent when we had the "year round" schedule. We started earlier in August but got out at the same time as everyone else. We had a (well placed) week off in October, 3 days at Thanksgiving, 1 week in February and 2 weeks in April. It was a great schedule for a working parent because there were not 8-10 weeks you had to worry about childcare in the summer, and quite frankly, there was more academic retention for the kids because they had less time off between semesters. When the district changed the schedule the whole Olive community (parents, teachers and staff) fought to try keep it. We were told by the district office that because district office was less occupied in August (vacations), it would be hard for the staff and teachers at Olive to get the things they needed to start the school year, the busing would be an issue (when Novato still had busing) and that the high school sports programs dominate the decision of whether or not the district would go "year round." With California's educational system ranking lower than most states in the nation, maybe it's time to up the number of days our kids are in school, get them off the "agricultural system" of summers off and into a year round program.
Jane White February 16, 2012 at 06:06 AM
My understanding as to why they went to a full week off at Thanksgiving was because parents were still taking their kids out for the whole week when the break didn't start until Wednesday. So they decided to avoid the loss of ADA, and gave the full week off, and school started a couple days earlier in August that year. Now I hear that parents have been their kids out on Friday and even Thursday before Thanksgiving break...
Mark Schoenbaum February 16, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I would suggest that they use the two month summer break for continuing education. Maybe you can explain why training days conveniently fall on three-day weekends? For that matter, why don't the children start the school year on a Monday and end the school year on a Friday? Anyway, I guess you do not work. My wife and I both work so we do not have the luxury of 'spending quality time' and I resent you implication that we are poor parents because we 'dump' our kids in daycare.


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