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Day after Labor Day launches school year for many

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Tuesday was the first day of school -- again -- in Southern California.

The day after Labor Day was long the traditional start of the school year, but some school systems began earlier this year, including Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second-largest, which welcomed students back Aug. 13.

But count Long Beach Unified among the traditionalists. It started, per custom, on the Tuesday after Labor Day.

For Westchester Secondary Charter School, Tuesday marked the first day ever. The campus opened with about 215 students in grades six through nine in rented facilities at the Westchester Christian Church. Blue balloons festooned the entryway, and Principal Janet Landon struggled to sever a ceremonial ribbon with a gigantic but dull scissors borrowed from local business boosters. Standard-sized scissors eventually did the job, to the cheers of those assembled.

"Students and parents, we’re here for you," Landon said, blinking back tears. "Thank you for your faith in us.”

School calendars have become varied and somewhat unpredictable, as a sampling of districts indicates.

Also starting Tuesday were San Diego Unified and, in the San Gabriel Valley, Temple City Unified. The first day in Norwalk-La Mirada Unified will be Thursday. 

The early starters included Pasadena Unified, which began Aug. 14;  El Rancho Unified in Pico Rivera, Aug. 21; and Anaheim City Unified, also Aug. 21. Schools in Santa Ana, Redondo Beach and El Segundo started Aug. 27.

The primary advantage of the early calendar is at the secondary level, where students can complete semester exams before breaking for winter holidays.

But students in the San Fernando Valley pay a price in terms of temperatures. They trade a generally temperate June for an often steamy August. A teacher at a Valley middle school last Thursday measured a blacktop temperature of 120 degrees. Friday was equally hot.

Fortunately, classrooms are generally air-conditioned, although physical education classes had to be curtailed.

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Twitter: @howardblume | howard.blume@latimes.com

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