In response to last week’s school board meeting and calendar proposal, I agree, students’ voices should be considered. I applaud the students and encourage more opportunities for participation, but also for exposure to broader perspectives on issues.
As a parent member of the calendar committee, students were not included in committee where objectives and issues were discussed and prioritized. Ideas based on a majority (not unanimous) decision determined the main objective a calendar change was to achieve. Results of students surveyed, 54 percent, and comments from five students, not all students, support a calendar change or compromise. I question, however, the broadness of perspective the students were given on options and benefits that maximize student and learning objectives when drawing their conclusions on the calendar change. The board meeting was focused on exams prior to the holidays and “homework free” and “stress-free winter break,” the top student reason for supporting change.
“Overworked and Underprepared” referenced at the board meeting strongly indicates “block days” and “time transition between classes” as its top two ideas towards managing stress and enhancing the learning environment. The opportunity to dive deeper into subjects, connect with instructors, reduced anxiety to and from classes, etc. are issues also identified in our district social/emotional results from last year. While exams are identified, a suggested “no homework” policy before all breaks facilitates stress free breaks and allows opportunity for life skills to navigate real-life time management issues. Are students aware that finals before holidays also ties into college applications and essays? How do holiday events, preparations and family gatherings affect finals? Fall and winter sports? Was information presented to students and parents as other ways to create a stress-free break prior to survey? No.
Many parents, educators and students focused on “missed opportunities” at the board meeting and also identified by the committee but didn’t have enough support. The community thinks it’s a big issue. The committee had two parents, no students. If 52 percent of the community didn’t want the calendar change, was my vote counted enough to highlight the right priorities?
Lastly, versions of the fall calendar have 11-13 weeks without break. The spring calendar has breaks every 3-4 weeks early in the semester. Are we reducing the stress over the holidays or creating more, or should we look outside the box again? I say yes.
Sheri Morgan, Laguna Beach