2011-12 calendar approved; final exams set before winter break

December 16, 2010 — by Michael Lee
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Final will occur before winter break next year.

The Board of Trustees approved a new calendar on Nov. 16 for the 2011-12 school year. Exams will take place during the week of Dec. 19, 2011, completing the first semester just before the holiday break (Dec. 26-Jan. 6).

In Los Gatos and Saratoga alike, parents, district staff and students have given this proposed schedule generous amounts of support.

“There is an overwhelming amount of support for [this change],” said assistant principal Brian Safine. “It has been unsettling and awkward for students to have a break, then go back to school for finals.”

Traditionally, students have taken their final exams two or three weeks after the holiday break. According to Safine, the idea of holding finals before the two-week vacation was proposed two years ago. It reached no consensus at the time, but the proposal made a reappearance this year due to an increase in popularity.

The school district, however, has some necessary adjustments. The school year will begin on Aug. 22, a week earlier than it did this year. The summer of 2011 thus will be one week shorter than normal, which could potentially disrupt fall sports or other extracurricular activities.

The largest issue, though, involves semester-long courses. The new calendar shortens the first semester to 83 days long, leaving the second semester a full 14 days longer. For most classes, this will not be a problem, as teachers can shift first semester lessons into the second half of the year. But the teachers of semester-long courses, such as government or economics, don’t have two semesters to work with. Most likely, they will have to shorten their curricula to accommodate for the 83 day-long first semester.

“It would be great if we could get the kids tested before the winter break, so they could go home, relax and not have to worry about taking a semester final when they come back in the new year,” said economics teacher Todd Dwyer. “However, I would also like to see some equity between the number of teaching days.”

Nonetheless, the consensus has been that the beneficial possibilities of this new calendar overwhelm the drawbacks. According to the district website, a district-wide survey “overwhelmingly showed support for the proposed change.” Most teachers and students appreciate the value of a break without books or test preparation.

“[If students study over break], then it’s not a break,” said Spanish teacher Gina Rodriguez. “I think kids here are way too stressed out. I don’t want to do work [over break] and don’t expect my students to.”

Safine, Dwyer and Rodriguez, along with many others, agree that a break should relax students, not create more stress. These people hold high expectations for the next year’s calendar.

“I think having a break at the end of finals week will optimize performance and mental health,” Safine said. “Parents, students and teachers all have recognized the need of a true break from school.”

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