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LAUSD board pushes start of school year back one week

LOS ANGELES — Classes will begin one week later in the Los Angeles Unified School District next year, then begin another week later the following year under a plan approved Sept. 20 by the Board of Education.

Three board members — Richard Vladovic, George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson — initially introduced a resolution asking that the district begin future school years after Labor Day. Superintendent Michelle King, however, suggested a compromise to begin classes next year on Aug. 22, one week later than this year’s Aug. 16 start date.

She said in subsequent years, classes could begin the week before Labor Day, with the 2018-19 school year beginning on Aug. 28.

King said the compromise schedule allows the district to still finish the fall semester before the winter break, which will be reduced from three weeks to two weeks. She said the compromise also will require students to attend classes on two days during the week of Thanksgiving instead of having the entire week off.

The board approved the compromise on a 5-2 vote, with Monica Garcia and Monica Ratliff dissenting.

Garcia said she opposed the idea because the district’s move to an earlier start date was designed to improve scores on midterm exams and Advanced Placement tests, ultimately boosting graduation rates. She said the move has worked, and the district shouldn’t change it.

“I feel that we have made improved effort in this district because we have been focused on achieving academic gains,” she said.

McKenna countered, however, that he does not believe changing the calendar will have a negative impact on students’ education.

“I think the quality of instruction does not change based upon the calendar,” he said.

Vladovic said other big-city school districts, such as Chicago and New York, both start school in September, after Labor Day. He also noted that Torrance began its school year Sept. 8, and it has a 96 percent graduation rate.

According to the board members who introduced the resolution, the district has received complaints about the hot weather at the beginning of the school year forcing students to remain indoors — limiting their physical activity — and about the cost of running air conditioners to keep classrooms cool.

“Maintenance on AC units is an ongoing and increasingly costly issue, including rising electrical costs; additionally, some activities must be conducted in rooms or facilities built without climate control,” according to the resolution.

The resolution also states that the district has received complaints from families “unable to travel due to affordability and time-off periods running concurrent with the August start period, or parents opting to travel when they can afford and/or have leave time from work, thus causing children to miss critical start-of-year classroom time.”

The LAUSD moved up the start of school in 2012, opining that the earlier start would allow the semester to end before the winter break, meaning students could take midterm exams prior to the winter holiday break. District officials also said the change bolsters scores on Advanced Placement exams in the spring and allows the school year to end in June, giving students more options for college and university summer programs, and for summer jobs.

The 2016-17 school year is scheduled to end June 9.

Based on the school board’s direction, King will draw up the final calendar for the coming school year and eventually bring it back to the board for final approval.