If ever there was an argument made for “One valley, one school district,” it might have been heard Tuesday night when parents rallied to express their frustration with the Newhall School District’s school year calendar.
At issue is the fact that the elementary school district, one of four in the Santa Clarita Valley, is the least closely aligned with the William S. Hart Union High School District’s school year calendar.
According to the parents, there are 26 days throughout the school year in which start dates, days off and break periods vary between the two districts. Parents at Newhall, which is a feeder district to Hart, often have children attending more than one school and attending school in more than one district, making balancing schedules tricky.
It may sound like a trivial issue to those without youngsters in the public school system. But for adults juggling two or more students between two or more schools, while also managing the youngsters’ activity calendars plus adult employment schedules – and who can afford a home in the SCV these days on a single income? – there’s nothing trivial about it.
To be clear, we aren’t advocating for one school district. But when public school districts make decisions that create turmoil for the families they serve, we do pause to ask ourselves whom the district is actually serving.
District representatives Tuesday night answered with responses like the calendar is “aligned in such a way as to produce positive educational outcomes,” that school vacation days “are set to align with the trimester system and benchmark testing” and that it’s “set to result to achieve the most effective educational outcomes for students.”
We don’t know exactly what all that jargon means. But we suspect the parents aren’t buying into what sounds like responses steeped in academic double-talk.
Parents were also told the end of the Newhall district school year differs for the high school district because of finals and Advanced Placement testing required in high school. We’re not sure that this conflict – if indeed it is one – can’t be resolved with better planning. The other elementary school districts seem to be achieving better alignment of schedules between their school calendars and that of the Hart district.
According to the many parents attending Tuesday night’s meeting, the misalignment is disruptive to families with children in more than one school, or school district. We all know how important routines are in the lives of children. We would argue that disruptions within family schedules can be just as upsetting to children and their ability to focus. Teachers who are also parents must also be affected by the same misalignment.
With so many two-parent working families today, the struggle to balance school breaks throughout the year can be stressful and costly. All districts should be working to offset that by aligning calendars as closely as possible with each other in the best interest of their students and their families.
In the case of the Newhall School District out-of-alignment calendar, is it really in the best interest of the students in the long run? The school board said it never heard such overwhelming discontent with the calendar, but will consider parents’ concerns when making calendar decisions next year.
We encourage the Newhall School District to do just that, and pay heed to the concerns of parents who arrived in large numbers Tuesday to express their frustration during the school board’s public comment period.
And, in fact, we encourage all school district heads in the Santa Clarita Valley to coordinate with one another to avoid the disruption misaligned school calendars may be having on families.