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LAUSD's Pitch For A Longer School Year Proving A Tough Sell To Parents

A student on his way to school walks past a Los Angeles Unified School District school bus in Los Angeles. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
(Robyn Beck
AFP/Getty Images)
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California lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom have urged public schools to extend their school years, hoping additional days in the classroom will make up for teacher-student interactions lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in the L.A. Unified School District, even district leaders acknowledge their proposal to start the upcoming school year a week early — and shave a week off of winter break — will be a tough sell with parents.

This week, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced a proposal to extend the district’s 2021-22 calendar. Students would report to classrooms on six of those days: Aug. 9-11 and Jan. 4-6. The other four additional days would be reserved for additional staff training.

LAUSD had surveyed parents on two proposal to add 10 extra classroom days to next year’s calendar. But in more than 376,000 responses to that survey, 44% of parents chose a third option: leave the 2021-22 calendar alone.

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“It is very mixed feedback,” said Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, LAUSD’s Chief Academic Officer, as she presented the staff recommendation to the board. She called the resulting offer a “compromise.”

School board members will vote on LAUSD’s proposal later this month — and some indicated they, too, were lukewarm to the idea of an extended year.

“A lot of the students that I talk to are tired,” said board member Jackie Goldberg. “They’re tired of sitting in front of a screen … I think the entire nation is tired. COVID has been a draining experience.”

Another board member, Scott Schmerelson, said his inbox is full of emails opposed to an extended year, and he’s “disappointed” the district is moving ahead with a proposal anyway.

Nick Melvoin urged district officials to come up with a “Plan B or Plan C” in case his fellow board members reject a modified calendar.

But LAUSD officials hope to charge ahead with a longer year because, Yoshimoto-Towery said, “Instructional time matters.”

“The evidence base,” she added, “is generally supportive of extended school year time — particularly for students at higher-risk for student failure, generally speaking … for students who need the consistency.”

Elsewhere, Chicago Public Schools recently approved a plan to end summer break a week earlier than normal.

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