"Six extra days of class time and four days of teacher professional development was an insufficient measure to address the trauma of the last year and a half. This is the time to address critical needs and begin prioritizing the allocation of funds towards real mitigation measures for learning inequities, increasing mental health services, and creating smaller class sizes." - Nicolle Fefferman, Parents Supporting Teachers
The block of LAUSD Board Members supported by the charter school industry has a long history of making changes to the school calendar against the wishes of parents. Many parents were blindsided when this group initially moved the start date from after Labor Day to August in 2016, in part to better prepare students for standardized tests. Backed by survey results that showed the majority of parents wanted a return to the traditional start date, Scott Schmerelson introduced a resolution that was passed by the board in 2016 that would slowly move the first day of school so that it was after Labor Day. Through parliamentary maneuvering, Monica Garcia was able to retract this decision leaving the calendar unchanged.
As the district's leadership plots a course for helping children recover from the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are once again making plans that lack input from stakeholders. Instead of openly discussing all options, they presented an extension of the instructional calendar that was opposed by 44.2% of families. The remaining families were evenly split between those wanting to start school two weeks earlier in the summer and those preferring that each semester start one week earlier. No option was presented that would have returned the calendar to its post-Labor Day start date.
Given this lack of consensus, Superintendent Beutner was forced to recommend a schedule for the board that did not include an earlier start date. This prompted the following statement from Parents Supporting Teachers, a Facebook Group with over 25,000 followers:
"After a year filled with tremendous loss, the decision not to add additional days to next school year will give LAUSD families additional time to heal and adapt to a world slowly regrouping from the pandemic. We hope this decision allows the District and its labor partners to immediately start working on a robust schedule for the fall, providing all students an opportunity to safely learn in the classroom with their teachers and peers," PST co-founder Jenna Schwartz stated. "We hope the Board follows the recommendation of the superintendent and the thousands of families who expressed displeasure for an extended year."
"Six extra days of class time and four days of teacher professional development was an insufficient measure to address the trauma of the last year and a half. This is the time to address critical needs and begin prioritizing the allocation of funds towards real mitigation measures for learning inequities, increasing mental health services, and creating smaller class sizes." said co-founder Nicolle Fefferman.
With the change in the school calendar apparently off the table, it is unclear how exactly the LAUSD will address the needs of its students. The next steps should be taken with the input of the district's parents, teachers, and other employees to avoid another failure.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.