The difficulty of coordinating students who could potentially be on three different school year calendars was the impetus for the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District to look into streamlining its year-round and traditional school calendars.
Tish Busselle, the independent consultant who hosted 17 forums this March, and compiled a calendar survey, reported that in general parents and guardians like what they know and have, but are open to changing up the length of their summer and fall breaks, while aligning the district’s two calendars more.
“This was particularly true at the forums when, after having the opportunity to learn more about the current calendars, impacts and research as well as hearing parent insights about the advantages and challenges they found with the current calendars, I observed many parents at all the forums suggesting ways to have a single calendar for the district which would meet the needs expressed by those on either calendar,” she wrote in an email.
The meetings and surveys focused on the current school year calendars and the district’s interest in having one calendar beginning in the 2015-16 school year which is aligned for winter and spring breaks with the San Mateo Union High School District’s calendar. For the past decade, the high school year has started in mid-August, included the traditional two-week winter break and one-week spring break, and has ended by the end of May. On May 1, Busselle reported the results to the school board, who seemed to respond positively to changes, said Superintendent Cynthia Simms.
“There’s great support from the board for a blended calendar,” Simms said.
Simms added that the district is looking to start the school year somewhere in the middle of when the year-round and traditional calendar school years start. Year-round schools in the district begin school around the end of July, while traditional schools begin at the end of August. Additionally, the last day of school is usually the last week of June in year-round schools, while traditional schools finish up in early to mid-June. Currently, the year-round calendar has five weeks of summer vacation and the traditional calendar has nine to 10 weeks.
While more than 40 percent of parents and guardians on the traditional and year-round calendars preferred the current length of their summer vacations respectively, there is common agreement among all respondents that there should be at least six weeks of summer vacation, according to survey data.
In terms of fall breaks, the current year-round calendar includes a three-week fall break. In the survey, 91 percent of year-round parents and guardians support continuing a fall break of either two or three weeks. While the current traditional calendar has no fall break, 59 percent of parents and guardians prefer one with an equal split about the length between one and two weeks. Those with children on both calendars prefer a two-week fall break and staff indicated a preference for a fall break of two weeks.
“People seem to like the three weeks off every quarter,” Simms said.
Winter and spring breaks were also up for evaluation. The current year-round calendar also has a three-week winter break, which begins about the same time as the traditional calendar’s two-week winter break and extends for an additional week in January. All respondents favor a winter break with 58 percent of year-round calendar parents preferring a three-week break and 69 percent of traditional calendar parents favoring a two-week break. Overall, there is a 54 percent preference for a two-week winter break. The year-round calendar has a three-week spring break, while the traditional calendar has a one-week break. All subgroups favor a spring break, with slightly more than half of the respondents on the traditional calendar preferring to continue the one-week spring break.
The school board will start evaluating changing the school calendars this fall.
“I believe that the data will be helpful in the negotiations process as parents’ perspectives and experiences are important,” Buselle said.
Those surveyed also expressed appreciation for being asked their opinions on calendar changes and noted they’d like to be notified early about any calendar modifications.
District schools on the traditional calendar are Audubon, Baywood, Foster City, Highlands, Horrall, Laurel, Meadow Heights, San Mateo Park and Sunnybrae elementary schools, North Shoreview K-8 and Borel and Bowditch middle schools. District schools on the year-round calendar are Beresford, George Hall, Fiesta Gardens, Parkside, Brewer Island and College Park elementary schools, along with Abbott and Bayside S.T.E.M. Academy.
To read through the surveys, visit smfc.k12.ca.us/superintendent and click on “Calendar Advisory Committee.”
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105