SC logo squareBy Allison Jarrell

After the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees discussed two calendar-related agenda items on Sept. 9, the consensus of the board was to further examine implementing a new, more inclusive process for determining future school calendars, while also revisiting the 2016-2017 academic calendar at the board’s next meeting.

CUSD students began school early this year on Aug. 25 following a March 11 vote by the district board to adjust the academic calendar. The board also voted at that time to begin the 2016-2017 year on Aug. 15, 2016.

The switch has been a controversial one, with parents across the district voicing concerns such as the lack of notice given before the decision was made. San Clemente City Councilman Tim Brown and his wife, Heather, spoke during public comment at the Sept. 9 meeting about the need to gather community input and reconsider the start date. Heather Brown—who emphasized the hot temperatures and lack of air conditioning in schools—started a petition drive against the new calendar back in March. That online petition now has 3,573 signatures and counting.

The board’s first discussion on Sept. 9 focused on making the process of forming the school calendar and selecting a start date more inclusive by engaging more community members and making sure that all stakeholders have a voice. Staff proposed creating multi-year school calendars while enabling “maximum semester instruction time.” The new approach presented would involve soliciting more input, creating an online survey and hosting a public forum.

The second agenda item, presented by Trustee John Alpay, asked that the board reconsider amending the Aug. 15 start date for the 2016-2017 academic calendar due to additional data gathered by staff and information from parents. Other trustees noted the educational benefits of an early start, while Alpay argued that what’s right for one district or school may not be the right choice for another.

At least four trustees agreed at the end of the discussion to bring back the motion on Sept. 23 to vote on amending the proposed 2016-2017 school calendar. No formal action was taken last Wednesday as the two school calendar agenda items were discussion only.

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