Editor’s note: Updated to reflect that Castaic Union School District’s calendar does not align with the Hart District’s calendar for two days, and that parents will be pulling their children from school only in October and June.
A new movement is making its way through some parents in the Newhall School District who are frustrated that the elementary school district’s calendar does not perfectly align with the calendar for the area’s only high school district.
The organized effort by parents argues that districts in the Santa Clarita Valley are the only ones in all of Southern California that do not align calendars for feeder schools and for different age groups.
“Anyone who has children in the elementary age, junior high age, high school age or all three has known for a long time now that the calendars don’t match up,” said Ryan Haslam, Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president at Old Orchard Elementary who is involved with the effort. “We feel it is the most un-family-friendly part of Santa Clarita, it splits families up.”
Three of the area’s four elementary districts, which serve students in transitional kindergarten to sixth grade, have calendars that do not match up with the William S. Hart Union High School District’s.
For the Saugus Union School District 12 days do not align and for the Sulphur Springs Union School District 15 days do not align; however, the biggest concern for parents is in the Newhall School District where 26 days do match up with the Hart District calendar.
“Newhall is the worst by far, with nearly double the amount of days mismatched compared to Hart School District,” Haslam said. “The other districts have maybe half.”
Organizers of the movement believe it is up to the elementary school districts to sync up with the Hart District’s calendar, which they say has the most guidelines.
“Hart School District has the most demanding school calendar,” Haslam said. “They have to follow certain things with AP testing and the semesters have to match up correctly… They provide their calendar three years in advance so that we can match our calendar to theirs.”
Parents involved with the movement are also using the Castaic Union School District, which has only two mismatched days with Hart, as an example of what they hope to achieve through their protests. In the Castaic District, students have the day before Thanksgiving off which results in them ending the school year one day later than Hart.
“It’s just a matter of having the will to get it done and tell our school board and our school district that this is important to us as parents,” Haslam said.
However, Newhall School District Superintendent Paul Cordeiro said the district’s calendar choices are not left just to school administrators or to the district’s Governing Board.
Instead, calendar decisions are made through collective bargaining between the district’s administrators and the teacher’s union.
Cordeiro noted that the board expects to review the calendar next year and examine “all the factors.”
“The board will examine the calendar and look at the issues and see where next year’s calendar may go and explore that from the bargaining point,” he said.
But parents frustrated by the calendar inconsistencies are not waiting for the district to bargain next year’s calendar; they want changes now and are turning to social media and petitions to make their voices heard.
Supporters of the movement have joined a Facebook group titled “Newhall District: FIX YOUR Calendar,” started a website at www.fixyourcalendar.com and signed an online petition titled “Newhall District – Please fix your school calendar problem!” As of Monday, the petition had 324 signatures.
By signing the petition, parents are agreeing to pull their elementary-aged children out of school every day the calendar does not match with Hart’s. This means that students will be missing from school during days in October, November, March and June.
In its Facebook page, parents say this action will cost the district $41 for each student each day they miss school. The choice would impact the district’s Average Daily Attendance (ADA) numbers and could cost up to $533 per child for the rest of the year.
“I would ask anyone to give pause to this. When you’re taking your kids out of school and they’re not sick, you’re losing learning time,” Cordeiro said. “There’s a presumption that if we hit the district in the wallet it will result in something. All of us are in this business for the kids.”
Cordeiro is also encouraging parents who have questions to come to district, speak to those in charge and set up a meeting with him.
“I’ve never met with the parents about this, not one has ever come to me about the calendar,” he said. “And we always welcome dialogue with the parents.”
However, parents, like Haslam, who have forgone family vacations or experienced increased childcare costs, are willing to go sacrifice their children’s time in school to see changes immediately.
“I’ve been complaining about it for about five years now and I’m tired of complaining about it,” Haslam said. “I’m going to have children in all three levels for the next 12 years so I’m very invested in this idea of getting this changed. There’s no reason we can’t.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_