Proposed changes in school calendar: earlier start

Castro Valley Unified School District has proposed a change in the school calendar, starting and ending the school year one week earlier. Among other things, this could mean first semester finals would be before winter break.

There are various pros and cons to this proposal, leading to differing viewpoints on the need for the change.

Roger Kim, president of Castro Valley Teachers Association (CVTA), has stated that “CVTA members are 70 percent against this for many reasons.” These include extreme California heat at the beginning of the year,  not enough time for students to study for final exams, and uneven semesters.

Last August, Castro Valley experienced temperatures over 100 degrees, forcing students in classrooms without air conditioners to relocate to cooler rooms.

“A school environment in that kind of weather is something no one wants to learn in. It brings down energy in classrooms as well,” said CVUSD Student Board Representative Matt Betti.

Despite the weather, CVUSD officials believed taking exams before break would create a more enjoyable time off for both teachers and students.    

“Here is our rationale. If exams were done before the break, students would not need to study over the holidays. If the first semester grades were due after the first week or so in January, our teachers could also enjoy the break,” said school board President Gary Howard.

Some students also agree with district officials.

“It’s easier for teachers to grade during breaks because they don’t have any other assignments or normal tests to grade. Only the midterm,” said sophomore Nathan Inamdar.

Another potential benefit of the change would help students wishing to take courses over the summer at a community college. Often the summer courses at Chabot and other community colleges start before the end of the CVUSD school year.

“We are working with Chabot College for a dual enrollment program in which students could get college credit for classes they take in high school. Having the semester end before the holidays would better align us with their schedule,” said Howard.

A significant drawback to this proposal is that the schedule shift would create a two-week discrepancy between the semesters, which would affect semester courses required for graduation, such as Health, CCG, Government, and Economics. Teachers would need to cut material in the fall and add extra lessons in the spring, according to Kim.

“There would be a wide variance in what students learn each semester, all based on the luck of the draw and which semester the computer places their courses in. That simply isn’t fair,” Kim stated.

While most schools in the East Bay tend to start in late August, San Ramon, Dublin and Pleasanton have been starting earlier. According to US News, all three high schools have a higher AP tested percentage than CVHS.

Because the College Board schedules its AP tests earlier in the school year, AP students at CVHS and other high schools that start later have less time to prepare for their tests and must cram more learning into a shorter amount of time.  

Modifying the district calendar is complicated and requires strenuous work. CVUSD and CVTA will have to work together to reach an agreement they feel is best for the students.

“The school calendar is part of our negotiations with the teachers, and I believe that together we will figure out the best solution for CVUSD,” said Howard.

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