School in Early August?

Oakland Unified is planning to start school on Aug. 13 next year, and some parents and camp directors don’t like it.


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In the Bay Area, school calendars have become a free-for-all. Next year, Oakland Unified will start the second week of August, the Alameda and West Contra Costa school districts will likely start the following week, and Berkeley the week after that.

“It makes it very hard to plan,” said Emily Schnitzer, director for Camp Kee Tov. The camp, operated out of Congregation Beth-El in Berkeley, runs two four-week programs, including one in August that she said will be “basically unenrollable” for Oakland families.

There is no simple solution, Schnitzer said, because many of the UC students who serve as counselors are still on campus in June. “I won’t have staff if I move it up,” she said. “But if I leave it the way it is, I will have families who won’t be able to come.”

East Bay camps could be in for an even more jarring blow in a few years. Berkeley Unified has started preliminary discussions about shortening summer vacation to four to six weeks and adding vacation time during the school year.

The primary goal would be to help lower-performing students, who are more likely to fall behind during long summer breaks. “It’s really difficult to have those kids drop off our grid for two to three months and not know if the supports they’re getting in the summer are the right supports,” said Pasquale Scuderi, associate superintendent for educational services. He added that Berkeley would seek community input before making such a major change.

Rury added that there is research backing up Berkeley’s concerns about what’s known as the “summer slide.”

But recent history also shows that moving to a more balanced school year is politically dicey, with the strongest pushback coming from wealthier parents who prize their summer camps and vacations.

“Guess who’s showing up at the school board meetings?” Rury said. “They’re pushing the political buttons.”

Sasaki said Oakland Unified has no plans to consider shortening the summer break.

Trish Gorham, president of the Oakland teachers’ union, said students would benefit from a shorter summer, but, for now, teachers are mostly satisfied with the upcoming calendar. As a concession, the district agreed to start paying teachers in August, she said.

Gorham said Oakland parents, who often have been in the dark about upcoming school year schedules, have reason to be happy, too. The new calendar will be in place through 2020. “Certainty is an advantage,” she said. “You can plan your European vacation three years ahead now. Because we know when school is beginning and when it’s ending.”

 

Oakland Unified has scheduled a public meeting featuring Superintendent Johnson-Trammell discussing the calendar change for Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. at Chabot Elementary School, 6686 Chabot Road, Oakland.

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