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Apodaca: School calendar debate continues

June 23, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

Summer is finally here.

Newport-Mesa wrapped up the school year at the end of last week, which means that once again our local public school kids are starting their summer break later than just about everyone else in the known universe.

Most of the time, school calendars are taken for granted. We grow accustomed to how it's done in our neck of the woods, and only take notice when school gets in the way of other things we'd like to do with our families.

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Occasionally, controversies emerge, such as the minor fiasco over this year's scheduling of a school day on Monday, Jan. 2 — a national holiday. And each year as summer draws near, grumblings of discontent can be heard as other districts and private schools start their breaks before Newport-Mesa.

But if there's ever a good time to pay closer attention to the district's schedule, now is it.

The Newport-Mesa calendar is currently set in stone through the 2013-14 school year. But the district just recently started the long process of determining the calendar for the following three years.

That means if you want things to change, this is your chance to get your two cents in.

The effort, which began about a month ago, involves a committee consisting of union, management, student and parent representatives. Committee members will study the Orange County Department of Education's recommendations, consult with their various constituencies, and then will draw up a draft, which will be subject to union approval. The proposed calendar will undergo a community comment period before going to the Board of Trustees for a vote.

The entire process is overseen by John Caldecott, the district's executive director of human resources.

Each time around, the calendar negotiations present a juggling act of competing interests and opinions, and what ultimately emerges is a best attempt at compromise, Caldecott said.

"There is no perfect calendar," he said. "There's no way to please everybody."

A key example: Newport-Mesa has long set the first day of school as the day after Labor Day. But that puts high school students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses at a disadvantage compared to students in districts that begin earlier.

Since AP testing is conducted nationwide in May, Newport-Mesa students taking AP classes are faced with a heavy load of work over the summer break, and an accelerated schedule during the school year in order to squeeze in the rigorous curricula.

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