CUSDBy Allison Jarrell 

The Capistrano Unified Board of School District directed staff Sept. 23 to return to its next meeting with two academic calendar options to vote on for the 2016-2017 school year.

The CUSD Board of Trustees discussed three options last Wednesday night in regards to the 2016-2017 calendar—keep the current calendar with an Aug. 15 start date, amend the calendar to mirror this year’s Aug. 25 start date or take time to further engage and poll the public, which would ultimately delay the approval of the 2016-2017 calendar.

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. Trustees said the earlier start would better align CUSD with other schools and colleges countywide and nationwide.

The board received 19 speaker cards on the topic at the Sept. 23 meeting, with each speaker opposing the current Aug. 15 start date. The board voted 6-1, with Board President Lynn Hatton-Hodson dissenting, to direct staff to return to the next meeting with two calendars for the trustees to vote one—one that mirrors the current 2015-2016 calendar and one that ends the first semester at winter break. This year, the first semester ends Jan. 21.

What looks to be the final discussion of the 2016-2017 academic calendar will take place at the board’s Oct. 14 meeting. At that meeting, the board will also discuss the community engagement process moving forward for future academic calendars. CUSD meetings begin at 7 p.m. at the district office, located at 33122 Valle Road. To see the board’s agenda, visit www.capousd.org.

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  • So much for being a kid.

    I think that beginning the school year on August 15th just to align with other schools around the country is ridiculous. Coastal Orange County is not “the rest of the country.” Our weather is different. Our resources are different. Our Lifestyle is different. Our children are different.

    Having grown up in coastal southern Orange County, I had always loved how I was able to enjoy the natural resources of the beach and ocean during the warmest months of the year. Back then our school year never began before September 15th, and it usually ended around June 15th. If you examine our current and past weather patterns, the start of school should really be pushed in the other direction, even beginning as late as October 1st and running through the end of June or early July. This would allow our kids and their families to enjoy what can often be the hottest months of the year, August and September, both in air temperature and water temperature, while spending what is usually the most overcast month of the year, June, still in the classrooms. In reality though, the recent norm of beginning after Labor Day is the best compromise… so, why did they mess with this?

    Not only does starting school in Mid-August ruin summer for our kids and their families, it also doesn’t make financial sense. Sending our kids to the classrooms in Mid-August means that classroom air-conditioning units will be running all day long during the hottest days of the year. That could be as many as two or three extra weeks of mass power consumption that could be avoided versus an early September start, or as much as six extra weeks versus an October 1st start. And of course that is if those rooms even have air-conditioning. So many classrooms are still not air-conditioned; and, forcing kids to endure August and September heat in closed-in un-air-conditioned rooms is bad policy.

    The Capistrano Unified School District’s reasoning for this early start date is also questionable. Capo USD says that they are doing this to better align with colleges, such as Saddleback, and for CIF sports schedules. My problem with this is that they are changing the game for every student to accommodate what is roughly 8% of the student body: those few 12th grade students that are graduating and moving on to college. At the same time this greatly affects the other 92% (K thru 11) who gain no advantage, but lose their summer. Capo USD is also admittedly putting sports before education. Can you imagine trying to study in a non-air-conditioned classroom when it’s 95° in San Clemente, or 105° in Mission Viejo, all because early practice for the CIF schedule is more important? It’s bad enough that our kids have to practice in that heat, but try to sit and concentrate on a teacher’s lecture in that heat? No way. I think it’s clear that football is more important to Capo USD than your child’s health, wellbeing and education.

    Now, I am sure that Capo USD would argue that all of this is necessary to better the education of our children and to make them more competitive with children from other states, and even other countries; but, I would ask, “at what cost?” Kids need to be kids, and families need quality time together; and, the best time of year for this is July, August and early September. I personally don’t agree that any of these new calendar changes will better the educational progress for our children. In fact I believe that these changes will hurt that process by making school harder for our kids to deal with and more mundane and miserable, while at the same time robbing them of the best time to spend with family and friends doing fun things that will allow them to reenergize and refocus on the long school year ahead.

    Some of you may think that I am living in a dream world. Maybe so; but, this [dream] world did exist. Kids used to go to school from September 15th to June 15th, and just about all of them turned out pretty damned good. We played in the ocean when the weather and water was warm, and when the weather turned cold we huddled in our classrooms and were anxious to learn. Who knows what this new schedule of all-work in the heat and limited-play in the gloom will do for our kids. I predict boring, overweight and unhappy adults in the future. If you fear the same thing then contact the Capo USD and let them know how you feel. You should also visit https://www.facebook.com/SAVEOURSUMMER and add your voice to this local grassroots effort to make a change for the better for our kids and their families.

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