Summer break will be cut short this year for students and staff in the Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) and Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (FUESD).
The first day of school for students in both districts will be Monday, Aug. 12, 2013 and the last day of the school year will be May 29, 2014. The primary reason given for the change is to enable the districts to end the first semester before Winter Break, hopefully reducing absenteeism in students who take extended vacations that time of year.
“We are hoping our student attendance will improve for those kids who sometimes take a longer winter break,” said Dale Mitchell, Ed.D., superintendent of FUHSD. “Now the semester will end before the break and they will need to take their finals and receive their grades in order to pass classes.” Improved attendance also means less loss to the school in the way of Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funds.
“We might be able to see some financial benefit on ADA,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said another perceived benefit to advancing the instructional calendar is the ability to have students better prepared for certain tests.
“[It would provide] more time to learn content before AP (Advanced Placement) tests and CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exams),” said Mitchell. “Two weeks should make a positive, noticeable difference in AP and CAHSEE exams.” Mitchell said other plans support that goal as well.
“There are other things we are doing to try and improve student success also; changing the instructional calendars is part of that,” he said.
Eric Forseth, assistant superintendent of educational services for FUESD, said the elementary school district changed its calendar primarily to coincide with that of the high school district.
“Our primary objective in changing [the FUESD] calendar was to provide our families that have students in both districts with an aligned schedule,” said Forseth. “At the K-8 level, we were able to adjust to the calendar pretty easily. The high school district did a nice job presenting us with their reasons for the proposed change and we decided to align ourselves with that because it just made good sense.”
However, Forseth said FUESD did a bit of homework first in its approximate 4,700 student population.
“We did survey our families and staff to solicit the level of interest in changing the instructional calendar,” he said. “The results, from families that had children in both districts, showed interest was very high to have the same schedule.”
Both Mitchell and Forseth said they don’t expect the calendar change to have any significant effect on the districts’ budgets.
“All the logistics, other than a shorter summer this year, a one-year phenomenon, will be the same,” said Forseth. Teachers will return to work on Aug. 7.
Mitchell said, “There is some perception that with school starting two weeks earlier in August that our energy costs for those two weeks may be more expensive than if those two weeks occurred in June. It seems to make sense as a generalization.” Given the fact that weather is decidedly unpredictable, any increase or decrease in energy costs could change from year to year.
“For budget purposes we are not changing anything – income or expenditures – because of this transition,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said the intent to change the instructional calendar by two weeks has been part of the high school district’s plan for a few years.
“It’s been a discussion since I joined the district and I am now in my fifth year here,” said Mitchell, who added that since his arrival the governing board has been adopting multiple-year calendars. The calendar for the 2013-2014 year was approved in the 2011-2012 year.
“That saved time instead of going through the whole process each year,” he explained. “The board also already approved the 2014-2015 calendar then; it is similar in starting and ending time.”
Thus far, not many complaints have been fielded from families or staff of the districts.
“We haven’t had a lot of feedback at this time; after the board approved the calendar, we informed the staff and the majority was in support of the proposed change,” said Mitchell.
As of press time, both Bonsall Union School District (BUSD) and Vallecitos School District had not made final determinations on their calendars for next school year.
Justin Cunningham, superintendent for BUSD said the matter will be discussed at the district’s Feb. 13 board of trustees meeting.
Vallecitos superintendent David Jones said, “We will consider Fallbrook’s calendar in committee meetings over the next couple of months and bring a recommendation to the board. We will discuss what the best dates and options are for families with kids in both districts (Vallecitos and FUHSD).
Getting the word out early about the change is important to families in their districts, Mitchell and Forseth said.
“We want to remind people that there will be a shorter summer this year and the 2013-2014 school year is starting earlier,” said Mitchell.
FUHSD lists additional benefits of new school calendar design
* Increased separation between STAR & AP exams – placing importance on assessment performance
* Calendar more aligned to college/community college – providing the ability for students to enroll in college/community college summer school courses and support a college-going culture
* Calendar more aligned to college/community college providing the ability for mid-year graduates to enroll in college/community college courses in second semester
* Allows for timely submission of first semester grades to colleges for admissions decisions
* Earlier school year end date enables students to better compete for summer jobs
* Places first semester final exams in closer proximity (time wise) to the classroom instruction/learning
* Eliminates the need for review time immediately after Winter Break in preparation for upcoming final exams
* Finals before winter break provides students with the opportunity for a true break