The LA Unified school board spent more than an hour last night, debating dates for the next three academic calendar years.
Ultimately, the members decided to keep the schedule similar to this year’s — starting in mid-August with three weeks of winter break — but only for one year.
The plan passed on a 5-2 vote, with George McKenna and Richard Vladovic dissenting. The board also agreed to study the matter further before committing additional years to the same schedule.
The debate centered on issues including time enough for college applications, the burden of childcare over a long winter break, the length of summer vacation and how the schedule not only affects student grades, but also their attendance, which translates into money for the district.
In the process, the board generally discounted the district’s efforts to survey more than families by phone, computer and community meetings for their preferences.
“The survey was awful,” said board member Scott Schmerelson. “I don’t think people knew what they were doing.”
Schmerelson said he attended all of the community meetings held by the district to get input for the calendar and concluded that the survey was confusing. The district also conducted a phone survey in September, another two months later and made available an online survey.
The responses showed that a majority of parents and teachers supported mid-to late-August start dates rather than an after-Labor Day start. Most also said they wanted the first semester to end before winter break. New superintendent Michelle King also said student body presidents and school administrators preferred the mid-August start.
For the first time yesterday, a student sat among the board members and cast “advisory” votes on every issue before them.
In his first remarks, Leon Popa, a 16-year-old junior from STEM Academy at Bernstein High, said he talked to fellow students and teachers and concluded, “People would want a longer summer and struggle with three weeks of winter vacation. It would be really tough with underprivileged families taking care of them.”