By Laurel Busby
Last week, Palisades High School’s Board of Trustees approved a three-year school calendar beginning Aug. 14 and also detailed its plans for a new track and field that will permanently shift the Fourth of July fireworks celebration to the baseball field beginning this summer.
The school calendar start date had initially drawn intense discussion from parents desiring a later start, but the vote at the Feb. 21 board meeting had no parent attendance aside from the parents on the board.
The board voted to approve a calendar beginning Aug. 14 for the 2017-18 school year, Aug. 13 for the 2018-19 school year and Aug. 12 for the 2019-20 school year. In addition, each school year will feature one week of vacation at Thanksgiving, three weeks of winter break and one week of spring break. The remaining school year details will be determined later, although typically the first day is pupil-free with student attendance beginning the following day.
Board chair Emilie Larew, Dara Williams, Susan Ackerman, Deanna Hamilton, Andrew Paris, Ellen Pfahler and Robert Rene voted to approved the calendar, while Leslie Woolley and Rocky Montz voted against it.
About 70 percent of the school’s faculty had voted to support a three-year calendar beginning with an August 14 start date, while just under 30 percent of voting faculty favored an earlier Aug. 7 start date, according to Larew. The faculty must approve the basics of the calendar, according to their union contract.
Two-thirds of about 500 students who voted on the issue supported an Aug. 14 start, while one-third supported an Aug. 7 start, according to student representative Ben Makhani.
At a December board meeting, some parents had vehemently argued for an Aug. 21 start date in part because LAUSD had originally approved that date, but the district shifted its start a week earlier that same night.
In arguing to approve the three-year schedule, board members cited the increased stability for parents and students that this would allow. In addition, an early start date makes it easier to have finals before the winter break, which can aid the college application process for seniors, some said.
The one area of disagreement concerned the distribution of breaks. Makhani said students generally prefer a two-week winter break, and both Montz and Woolley expressed support for further considering the vacation distribution for this reason.
However, overall parents and faculty support a three-week break, others said, and the previous faculty vote of support for an Aug. 14 start date included a three-week winter break as part of that vote. A second faculty vote would have been required to change the vacation distribution, and the faculty members on the board said that support for such a change was unlikely.