Anticipation hung in the air around Laguna Beach High School on Monday for the first day of the new school year — a week earlier than usual.
Teachers called out “happy first day” greetings to one another at the courtyard. Students decked out in sparkly earrings, bright sneakers and backpacks full of fresh supplies skittered through the hallways to find their classrooms.
For the first time in recent memory, the Laguna Beach Unified School District began classes the week before Labor Day — a change that provoked consternation among some parents and joy from others when the school board unanimously approved it a year ago.
Under the new academic calendar, all schools in Laguna Beach Unified started a week earlier and will let out a week earlier, on June 11.
Parents and teachers packed school board meetings last year, divided over the proposed change. One group circulated a petition opposing it, and a survey that the board commissioned found that 52% of parents who responded opposed the calendar change, while 60% of faculty members and 54% of students supported it.
The issue was still on the mind of some parents dropping off their children at school on a bright, warm morning Monday.
Angelica Palazzo, whose daughter is beginning her freshman year, said her family recently moved to Laguna Beach from Los Angeles, where school began last week. They were excited about Laguna’s later start date because it meant more time to go to the ocean.
“We had the most amazing longer summer,” Palazzo said, though it didn’t turn out to be as long a summer as she initially expected.
In addition to the new start date, Laguna Beach High changed the bell schedule. Now students get to sleep in longer for a 9 a.m. report time every Monday. The changed schedule limits the number of classes students have per day while elongating the class periods. In previous years, students had five to seven periods per day. Now they attend three 90-minute classes on Mondays. The other school days, which begin at 8:30 a.m., have three 90-minute classes plus a 67-minute class and a tutorial session.
Priscilla Roach, a mother of three, appreciated the bell schedule change, saying it’s more conducive to teenagers’ sleep schedules.
“7:30 a.m. was deadly to get them here,” Roach said. “I think it’s awfully kind for teenagers — and their parents.”
Still, she wished the school had kept the later start to the year. The weather has been perfect for one last week at the beach, she said.
“We don’t want [the week off] at the end of the year,” Roach said. “We want it now.”
The calendar change also means fall semester final exams will be held before the holiday break in December. Three days of finals are allocated at the end of each semester. In previous years, students would have the winter holiday break to study before returning for exams in January. This year, the fall semester lets out Dec. 20 and the spring semester starts Jan. 7.
Sophomore Carly Rohrer said she prefers getting tests out of the way so she doesn’t have to think about them over the break.
“That just wasn’t fun,” she said.
Another advantage of the earlier start date, she said, is that it gives students an extra week to prepare for Advanced Placement exams — nationwide standardized tests with fixed dates in the spring.
Rob MacDonald, the father of a sophomore at the school, said he supports the earlier start date.
“As a parent, I love the time off,” he said. “As far as education, I don’t think they retain that much [over the summer].”