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School board votes on calendar today

The Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Board of Education will vote today on a proposed change to the district calendar. If approved, the measure would kick off the 2012-13 academic year Aug. 16, 12 days in advance of the current Aug. 28 start date.

In recent months, school officials have called for a reform of the school calendar; their main push is to wrap up the first semester before winter break. The early start proposal goes hand in hand with a Dec. 21 semester end date, rather than the current Jan. 24 end date. The school year would conclude May 30 under the proposal.

The debate over calendar changes has sparked numerous discussions in the local community. School of Education senior lecturer Denise Clark Pope is among the proponents of the change.

Pope, co-founder of Challenge Success, argued that a student’s schedule has a significant impact on stress levels. Daily school hours and the number of breaks count more than people think, according to Pope.

Though the course of the past months, the PAUSD staff solicited feedback on the calendar reform from various entities. In addition to meeting with high school departments, the district also issued a survey to its teachers, parents and students.

According to the current proposal report, some “2,700 parents, 430 high school students, 165 high school staff and 310 elementary/middle school staff completed a survey.”

The responses show that there was support among all parties for the notion of finals before winter break, with the strongest support coming from the high schools,” the report said.

The majority opinion on finals did not translate, however, to a consensus on the calendar debate.

“Although there were strong preferences for when finals should occur, the same level agreement did not exist when it came to when the school year should start — which is directly related to the length of the first semester if the semester is to conclude before winter break,” the report said.

Survey respondents cited curriculum challenges, conflicts with family activities and conflicts with college application deadlines as potential obstacles to the proposed change.

The public session of today’s meeting will commence at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom of the Palo Alto Unified School District administrative building.

– An Le Nguyen