Correspondent

PLEASANTON -- A plan to reduce Pleasanton school vacations to seven weeks, which had many parents unhappy, seems to have lost momentum.

However, school officials say they still support reducing, or at least modifying, the school district's academic calendar for 2015-16.

Although a final decision isn't expected by school board members until June 3, each trustee voiced tentative support Tuesday for options that could reconfigure break schedules and shorten summer vacations.

"The way we're learning right now, a traditional schedule isn't as efficient as it should be," said Chloe Connolly, the district's student board member.

Thomas Hart Middle School in Pleasanton. Pleasanton school board officials may revamp the academic calendar for the 2016-16 school year.  (Jim
Thomas Hart Middle School in Pleasanton. Pleasanton school board officials may revamp the academic calendar for the 2016-16 school year. (Jim Stevens/Staff file photo)

Among the pluses expected to come from some studied schedule changes includes an end to the first semester in December, giving high schoolers a fresh start each January in the new year.

All five options include 180 days of break time per year. The "traditional" option would make no changes; the school year would begin in late August, end in mid-June, and the first semester would end in mid-January.

The most extreme -- and controversial "modified" or "modified hybrid" -- plans would reduce summers to seven or eight weeks, respectively, but add a two-week October break and expanded spring break.

"When we get into the (modified and modified hybrid), I think that's where it starts becoming, 'Well, should we go to that extreme or not?'" said trustee Valerie Arkin. "I think, at least not yet. We shouldn't dive right into it."


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Two options seem to have the most board support. One is dubbed the "early start/finish." It doesn't shorten summer but has school let out in May and start again in August and has winter break starting at the end of the year so it corresponds with the end of high school semesters.

The other, the "modified lite," shortens summer to nine weeks and adds a weeklong October break.

A group of Harvest Park Middle School sixth-graders spoke to the board to support the early start/finish option.

"If we changed to the early start/finish calendar, many things will stay the same, but one major thing will be different: The first semester would end before winter break," sixth-grader Gabriel "Gabby" Herman told trustees. "This would help because students won't be stressed out as much, and so they won't miss school due to their stress."

The district's human resources director, Mark McCoy, told the board that the district sent out newsletters, held forums, used social media and tried other methods to inform parents of the calendar options and that they'd received a lot of feedback but that they also neglected to send out mass emails to parents or to inform them in a systematic, widespread manner.

McCoy also listed three PowerPoint slides full of concerns from parents and other possible issues of which he said the board should be aware. One of the biggest involves possible negative consequences of making Pleasanton's schedule so different from neighboring districts -- one reason trustees seemed to shy away from the "modified" calendar.

If the early start/finish is chosen, the first summer after implementation will still be shorter than average because it lets out later. This might cause some initial turbulence, but the district is committed to sticking with whatever decision they come to, said Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi.

"Change is always hard, right?" Ahmadi said.

if you go
The next Pleasanton school board meeting will be 7 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the district administration building, 4665 Bernal Ave., Pleasanton.