Possible calendar changes invite discussions

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The Daily Pilot
Ell Morro principal Chris Duddy, LBHS math teacher Lara Greco and Top of the World physical education teacher Ian Corso attend the April 12 study session at the LBHS library. Community members were invited to share their thoughts regarding the potential calendar change for the 2019-20 school year.

Over the past year, Laguna Beach Unified School District has begun looking into the possibility of a major change in the school calendar for the 2019-2020 year. The proposed change would move the start of the school year two weeks earlier than it is now, effectively shifting the end of first semester to before winter break. In order to decide whether or not to enact the change, the board tasked superintendent Jason Viloria and a stakeholder committee to research whether or not the change would be beneficial to students.
“As a participant in the stakeholder committee (one of the two board members who were selected), I witnessed first hand the process that allowed all consideration requests to be put up on charts, and then during subsequent meetings, these were ranked and the priorities emerged. For me, I have long been concerned with how many school days students attend after May testing and how to make those days learning days,” said LBUSD board member Jan Vickers.
After a long process of reviewing the data pertaining to attendance, athletic schedules and student summer employment opportunities, the committee presented a new possible calendar. The new plan would not only move first semester finals before winter break, but it would also give a full week of break over Thanksgiving, along with adding a few non-student days throughout the year.
“I think the change will affect students both on a personal and academic level, and I’m hoping that it will in general be positive,” said LBHS principal Dr. Jason Allemann. “We live and operate in a high school world, so the change would have a different impact here as it would at the middle or elementary level.”
The next step in the approval process included hosting a study session in the LBHS library on April 12, where community members were invited to come and voice their opinions regarding the possible change. The proposed plan was met with highly polarized opinions, as many parents in attendance expressed concerns regarding how this change would affect students and how the calendar committee was formed.
“How many committee members were residents of Laguna Beach, and how many have kids in Laguna Beach?” and “Are we looking only looking at academic quality or what is best for the whole child?” were among the questions posed by those in attendance at the April 12 meeting.
Some community members were also worried about the data presented at the meeting and how exactly the board came to an impartial decision. Many felt as if there had been a lack of communication with the community up until then and would have liked to have more input in the process.
One parent said that there there were “still lots of missteps in communication over calendar,” claiming that “the process has flaws, which leads to anger and frustration.”
A few years ago, the previous LBUSD administration also pushed for a similar calendar change, but they pushed the measure through with little input from the community. When the change was presented, it was met with intense backlash from the community, and the change was reversed before it was implemented.
“I hope that this time we take people’s opinions and perspectives into account, but the opinions and perspectives need to be related to not their personal opinion or what works works well for a single family, but what works well for the district,” said Allemann.
This time, the study of a potential change was requested by both board members and educators within the district. Claiming that this change would be best for students, educators cited that moving the calendar back two weeks would also result in two extra weeks for AP test preparation and a more relaxed winter break.
“I think the natural break over the winter holidays would be the best result to come out of the change. I feel it causes added stress to have our students return from the winter break and immediately begin preparing for finals. Our students deserve to finish out their finals before the break and return after two weeks with a fresh start to a new semester,” said math teacher Lara Greco. “It would also better align our calendar to most collegiate calendars, and it seems that families with students here and in college would appreciate having all of their kids on the same schedule. An early return to school would also allow for more opportunities for our students to apply for scholarships.”
Now that the plan has been presented to the community, the board has tasked superintendent Viloria with collecting data and information to answer the questions brought up during the study session, along with sending out surveys to the high school students to review their opinions on the matter. The surveys will be an important part of the decision regarding what the next step in the process will be.
“It is unknown at this time if the committee will meet again as a group, if there will be another study session—the board will receive recommendations on those steps after the administrators have done all the requested work (that includes answering all the questions asked at the study session). As the superintendent stated at the study session, it is best if we have the calendar settled by July 1, 2018,” said Vickers.
As Viloria is faced with a demanding deadline to secure a schedule, he will have to take in more data and information to decide whether or not the change will be implemented.
“We went through a very thorough process with all representatives on the committee, including parents, teachers and city employees. We really tried to get input from all ends, and after you put out all of the facts, you have to do what is right for our students,” said Greco.

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