Schools head for early-start calendar

The academic calendar for Glendale schools will start two weeks earlier than usual after being phased in starting in 2012 — a move that will give students more time before key standardized tests, officials said.

The number of instructional days, 180, will remain the same, but the first day of school will be moved up by one week in both 2012 and 2013. The change will also sync the end of the first semester with winter break and give students a two-week head start on finding summer jobs and internships, officials said.

“That is a really big thing that affects everybody,” said school board vice president Joylene Wagner. “If you have got to come back [to school] and have finals in two weeks, you can’t quite enjoy your winter break the way you would otherwise.”

The coming academic year will start for students on Aug. 29 and end on June 14, 2012, dates consistent with the current calendar. But in the subsequent two years, the dates will be staggered forward in one-week increments, with the start date for the 2013-2014 school year eventually starting on Aug.12, 2013 and ending on May 29, 2014.

Changing the calendar gives teachers and students additional classroom time to prepare for the California High School Exit Examination and advanced placement tests, which are administered on fixed dates, officials said. It also means that the first semester will wrap up in December, rather than in January.

“The whole goal of the calendar is to do what is best for kids,” said Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan. “We believe very strongly that the early start is best for kids.”

Glendale Unified first considered a change during the 2007-2008 school year, said Deputy Supt. John Garcia. The district formed a committee of parents, teachers and administrators that studied districts that already employed an early-start calendar.

“The group found that the pros significantly outweighed the cons based on researching other districts that had implemented the early-start calendar,” Garcia said.

The new calendar also includes a change in how Glendale Unified teachers are paid. Starting on July 1, teachers will be paid on an 11-month payroll schedule, rather than the current 10-month cycle. That means teachers will only have to budget for one month of getting no paycheck.

“It is really helpful to teachers,” said Tami Carlson, president of the Glendale Teachers Assn.

The three-year transition period, starting with the new pay schedule this year, was adopted as a means to ease school stakeholders into the change, Sheehan said.

“One of the things the committee had promised the community is that they would give the community time to adjust to the early start,” Sheehan said. “And so by going with the traditional calendar for next year, and then phasing [the new calendar] in over two years, we believe we are giving the community plenty of time to prepare.”

FOR THE RECORD: This amends an earlier version to make clear that the one-week increment starts in 2012.

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