Newport-Mesa committee to design new school calendar with earlier start date

After reviewing public input, a committee of Newport-Mesa Unified School District staff members, administrators and parents determined that starting the school year up to three weeks before Labor Day is in the best interest of students, the district said. The earliest such a change would happen is the 2020-21 school year.

The committee will meet to design a new calendar, which will then move to the district and teachers union for negotiations, according to the district. After that, it would go to the school board for adoption.

It hasn’t been determined how much earlier the start date would be. The change would apply to all students except at Early College High School, which already starts school in August. The other campuses currently begin classes after Labor Day.

Implementing the new calendar three years from now would allow more time to plan the transition, the committee said.

Five informational meetings were held in November in which district administrators presented the proposed change and its potential benefits.

A survey was available on the district website to gather public input.

The survey asked parents, students, teachers, staff members and others to select their preferred option for the start date. According to the overall results, about 65% of the 8,242 respondents chose no change, 27% selected “before Labor Day” and about 8% had no preference. A few left the question blank.

Asked for their preference if the start date were shifted earlier, 60% preferred two weeks earlier, about 13% chose three weeks earlier and 23% had no preference. Some left the question blank.

High school students and some teachers have spoken in favor of an earlier start because it would provide additional instruction time for Advanced Placement tests.

Other teachers and some parents weren’t convinced of the potential benefits and said starting school amid August heat would be uncomfortable at schools without air conditioning. They instead encouraged administrators to focus on installing air conditioning at all school sites.

In November, the school board approved installing air conditioning at seven campuses, with work expected to be done in summer 2019.

Six other schools — Davis Magnet, College Park, Wilson, Pomona, Kaiser and Woodland — will have air conditioning installed next summer, according to the district.

Twitter: @vegapriscella