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Corona del Mar High educators and students support starting the school year earlier

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Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials said during a public meeting Monday at Corona del Mar High School that any recommendation to change the district’s academic calendar would go to a bargaining process between the district and its teachers union.
(Priscella Vega)

Corona del Mar High School educators and students expressed support Monday for starting the school year up to three weeks before Labor Day, but some parents said the district should finish installing air conditioning in all classrooms before discussing a change in the academic calendar.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District held a public meeting at CdM’s lecture hall, where district officials led a presentation on the potential benefits of starting school earlier. It was one in a recent series of such meetings at various locations.

The change would apply to all students except at Early College High School, which already starts in August, said Kurt Suhr, district executive director of elementary education.

An earlier start also would mean an earlier finish, the district said.

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About 50 parents, students and Newport-Mesa staff attended Monday’s meeting, where a majority of students and teachers spoke in favor of starting the school year earlier because of additional instructional time for Advanced Placement tests.

“The amount of [summer] work that we have is crazy,” said Simone Oberreiter, a junior at CdM. “We have to figure out an entire unit by ourselves before the year even starts. … With more class time to learn, we won’t have to work two times as hard to get the same grade.”

Laura Mayberry, a teacher at the school, said if the academic year ended after students took their AP exams in May, there wouldn’t be additional stress with five to six weeks of instructional time remaining, with more tests and assignments.

Max Johnson, student body president at CdM, said he had difficulty finding a course for art credit at Saddleback College that fit his school schedule because of how late the school year ended.

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Costa Mesa High School seventh-grader Jacob Bishai said he favors an earlier start date because it would enable him to participate in summer camps he can’t attend now.

Though potential benefits promoted by the district focus on secondary schools, all students eventually will get the benefits because all will attend high school, the district said.

Parent Julia Katz acknowledged that the high school students were convincing in their arguments for a shift, but she said she doesn’t see the benefit for younger children attending sweltering classrooms in August.

Laurie Smith, a retired Newport-Mesa teacher, said the change should depend on when the 32-campus district installs air conditioning in the 15 schools that don’t have it. The district says it plans to install air conditioning at six schools next summer, leaving nine without it after 2018.

Once input is gathered from all the community meetings and from a survey available on the district website until Nov. 15, a committee of staff members, administrators and parents will convene Nov. 20 to review the feedback, Suhr said.

The committee already has met several times to develop the district’s information sheet listing the possible benefits of an earlier start date.

Any committee recommendation to change the school calendar would go to a bargaining process between the district and its teachers union, Suhr said. The earliest it could take effect is the 2019-20 school year.

The last public meeting about the possible change is set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Estancia High School gymnasium, 2323 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa.

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Priscella.Vega@latimes.com

Twitter: @vegapriscella


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