By Susan Abram Staff Writer, LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/ukwenx
10/25/2011 07:15:07 PM PDT - All Los Angeles Unified campuses will begin the 2012-13 school year three weeks earlier than usual under a school board vote Tuesday to push forward with the long-delayed early-start calendar.
The 2012-13 school year will start next Aug. 14, and will conclude June 4 the following year, with a three-week break dividing the fall and spring semesters.
"The closure we're able to gain at the end of the fall semester allows our students to have a break that was before filled with projects and work," said Herman Clay, principal at Cleveland High in Reseda, one of 18 LAUSD campuses that has already implemented the schedule.
"Our parents were very pleased with this event, and we received many comments that they were glad their children were able to relax during the break," he said.
The early-start calendar has been debated for years.
Plans to implement it in 2011-12 were delayed because of uncertainty over the effects of state funding cuts on the district's budget.
The calendar was set to take effect in 2012-13, although some board members worried that it would worsen the district's projected budget deficit of $600 million.
Officials had estimated it would cost $4 million to implement the early-start calendar because employees would receive holiday pay for the Labor Day holiday, and special-education programs would have to be staffed in the summer and winter. However, a new estimate projected the cost will be less than $1 million.
The board actually voted Tuesday on whether to again postpone the early-start calendar, with members Tamar Galatzan, Nury Martinez, Steve Zimmer and board President Monica Garcia voting against the motion. Board members Bennett Kayser, Marguerite LaMotte and Richard Vladovic were in favor of delaying the new schedule until the state budget picture stabilizes.
Galatzan said the vote helps parents prepare for the new schedule.
"It tells parents and teachers and staff that the district is committed in moving forward with this," said Galatzan, an early advocate of the calendar.
Eighteen high schools - most of them in the San Fernando Valley - are already on the new schedule, attending class from mid-August to early June, with a three-week break between semesters.
Some parents have opposed the calendar, saying it would interfere with vacation plans and that students would be in class during some of the hottest days of the year. Teachers also wanted to postpone the change, saying they needed more time to plan.
Richard Wagner, a teacher at San Pedro High School, said there is no research to support the idea that an early-start schedule improves test scores.
"Are you truly willing to enforce an unproven calendar?" Wagner asked the board. "The air conditioning in my school has worked only eight days so far. It has been miserable. August was hot this year - very hot to think while your sweat is dripping on your papers."
Vladovic said the academic results are mixed. He said California High School Exit Exams taken by sophomores at early-start schools have improved, while Advance Placement scores in those schools are down.
"We're at the mercy of the state budget," he said. "We're at the whim of a state that is totally dysfunctional."