IUSD proposes an earlier start to the school year


Mahima Verma

Mahima Verma
Photo courtesy of Niusha Maleki

Updated: January 29, 2014Earlier, the article mentioned that IUSD issued a districtwide survey this year for teachers and staff to voice their opinion on the potential changes to the 2015-2016 school year. However, IUSD did not issue a districtwide survey on proposed schedules this year.  
On December 16, 2013, the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) released potential calendars for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic year. District staff members have composed and are currently revising the new calendars. They are debating whether IUSD schools should start the academic year 2014-2015 on September 2, and 2015-2016 on August 26, before Labor Day. In addition to impacting high school athletic programs, this early start is specifically intended to grant IUSD high school students more time to prepare for Advanced Placement (AP) testing.This month, the IUSD Board of Education members, each serving a four-year term and elected by the school district, will be voting on the draft calendars. To receive further community feedback regarding the proposed schedule change, IUSD is currently providing an open response forum on its website for teachers, students, and parents interested in voicing their opinions. The forum will remain open until February 1, 2014.Each year, teachers and staff members receive and answer a survey from the IUSD regarding potential changes to the school year schedule. The 2014 survey especially focuses on member opinions on the proposed schedule changes for the 2015-2016 school year. For the past several decades, Irvine schools have been starting their academic year after Labor Day; Irvine is one of the few cities nationwide to follow this schedule.When asked about the possibility of an early start, Mr. John Pehrson (Admin.) said, “There’s been talk about this [change in school calendar] for years, primarily stemming from high school need for more preparation time for AP exams. As an educator, I have been wanting this change for a long time. We’re still not going to be as early as most of the country, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.”
Nationwide, many schools start earlier to prepare for AP testing which is in May. This reason led certain IUSD teachers and staff committee members to draft a new calendar that allows students to use the extra four to five weeks they get after AP exams earlier on in the school year and reduce student stress. Mr. David Knight (Science Dept.) said, “The early start will help me to better prepare my students for the AP Biology exam. Also, since so many East Coast schools do as well as well as we do, it’d be nice to match up with them. If you think about spring break, for example, our spring break doesn’t match East Coast spring break, which is bad if you’re trying to plan a visit to a college.”
IUSD is drafting the calendar with the intent to increase quality of public education and make efficient use of limited instructional hours. Students do not have the opportunity to vote alongside district-wide staff for the proposed schedule changes, but are invited to voice their opinions on the IUSD forum.  Mr. Pehrson said, “The calendar was made in the interest of students even though they weren’t asked directly, ‘Would you like this change?” Decision makers just assume that students would like to have more time to prepare for their AP exams rather than having to cram everything all together.” When asked about her opinion on the early start and its potential impact on her junior year, Mia McCarey (Fr.) said,It is better to start and finish early just because you can get more practice before you get the tension of school and studies.”
The early school start will also directly impact high school athletic programs. According to the proposed calendars, high school athletic seasonal schedules, which are organized by the California Interscholastic Federation, call for the start of fall season sports before the start of school. Mr. Pehrson said, “The early start will help athletics because the school year will shift closer to the athletic calendar, ultimately giving the chance to our teams to prepare in advance.”
Staff Writer