Survey: Most parents, students want to keep current school schedule

A majority of Newport-Mesa Unified School District parents and students don't want classes to begin in August, results of a survey about the calendar year show.

The district asked families, teachers, staff and community members to respond to a survey in April about whether the school year should begin earlier for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

A total of 3,865 people, mostly parents, responded through May 9. Respondents ranked each of the four options for the calendar based on their preferences.

Newport-Mesa students currently begin classes the day after Labor Day. An earlier start time would allow students to have a longer Thanksgiving break, an earlier start to summer vacation or a combination of the two, according to the survey.

The majority of respondents, 1,550 people, opted for maintaining the current schedule.

The second most popular option, with 1,086 votes, would have students back at school Aug. 27, a Thursday in 2015, give them a full week off for Thanksgiving and end the year five days earlier in June.

Another option, which received 654 votes, would have students returning to school Sept. 3, the Thursday before Labor Day in 2015, and give them a full week off for Thanksgiving, with the year ending in late June.

The least popular option, receiving 432 votes, would have students start classes Aug. 31, the Monday before Labor Day, and have the school year end five days earlier than the current calendar.

Some parents who opposed the changes expressed concern about the lack of air conditioning in classrooms that could make August conditions unbearable. Most Newport-Mesa schools were built without air conditioning, but some have added it in certain buildings. The district does not have a plan to add air conditioning districtwide.

"The weather is always hot in August, so going back early will make it miserable for the kids," one parent wrote in the survey. "Also, the last two weeks of August are ideal family vacation time because vacation spots are less crowded."

Parents also expressed concern about finding child care to accommodate a full week off for Thanksgiving.

However, some parents and teachers supported the idea of starting school before Labor Day to give students more time to prepare for Advanced Placement tests, which are administered in the spring.

"I feel having an additional five instructional days would make us more competitive nationally, especially when we compete against schools that start at the beginning of August and end at the end of May," one teacher wrote.

Newport-Mesa calendars are developed after receiving input through a calendar committee representing district students, parents, teachers and staff. The calendar is then considered by the district board and the teachers union, Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers.

The federation could not be reached for comment.

Calendar changes have proven to be a contentious topic in other local school districts.

Earlier this year, Laguna Beach Unified District board members reversed their decision to alter the school start date after parents complained.

The board initially voted to amend the calendar so school would start before Labor Day and students would be given a weeklong break for Thanksgiving.

Newport-Mesa hopes to have a negotiated draft calendar to present to board trustees for adoption on June 24.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World