News

New school schedule set for fall

By Cameron Reed
La Habra Journal

La Habra K-12 students will have a shorter summer break this year because the La Habra City School District will begin the 2013-2014 school year two weeks earlier. Classes will begin on Aug. 19 and end two weeks early on May 29, 2014.
The LHCSD changed its schedule after the Fullerton Joint Union High School District, which also serves La Habra high schools, shifted its calendar ahead two weeks. LHCSD Superintendent Susan Belenardo said uniting the districts’ schedules would make things easier on La Habra families with children in multiple grade levels.
“We’ve always aligned our calendars in order to make it more convenient for parents,” Belenardo said. “We’re supporting the community and trying not to make it too challenging on parents.”

Most students will start school on Aug. 19, but sixth and seventh graders will start on Aug. 16. Belenardo believes these younger middle school students will benefit from the new schedule by getting a little extra time at the beginning of the year to adjust to their new surroundings and multiple teachers. She said it should also help the schools plan for their eighth grade promotion ceremonies at the end of the school year.
In the Lowell Joint School district, the seventh graders at Rancho Starbuck will start a day before the eighth graders in order for them to get acclimated to the junior high school, according to Dr. Patricia Howell, superintendent of the LJSD. She also stated schedule uniformity as a reason for the change.
“It’s a tradition to follow the same schedule [as FJUHSD] so our families would not be inconvenienced,” Howell said.
The move comes at the recommendation of a study group commissioned by the FJUHSD in October  2011. The group, comprised of students, parents and high school faculty, found that starting school earlier will give students more time to prepare for high-stakes exams, like the California High School Exit Exam and college placement tests.
The group’s report showed overwhelming support for the schedule shift, citing that it is sometimes difficult to foster meaningful learning once students finish these exams but still have two weeks of school left.
FJUHSD Superintendent George Giokaris likened the old schedule to a poorly managed sports team.
“It’s like you’ve played the last game of the season, but you still have to practice for two weeks,” Giokaris said. “It’s to more effectively use instructional time.”
Giokaris said the extra time to prepare for community college placement exams is particularly important, because between 55 and 60 percent of the district’s graduating seniors who go to college attend a local community school.
“If juniors and seniors fail these tests, they could end up in remedial classes that don’t transfer,” Giokaris said.
The La Habra City Community Services Department is also feeling the effects of the new scheduling. In order to accommodate the earlier start dates, Community Services Director Sal Failla and his associates in the department had to shorten several of the city’s summer programs, such as the La Habra Active Day Camp. The summer camp, located at the Veteran’s Hall behind the La Habra Public Library, will now run 10 weeks, accommodating campers from June 10 until Aug. 15. Failla said the Community Services department was given about one year’s advance notice of the date change.
“We’re very lucky that all three school districts adopted about the same calendar,” Failla said.
He noted that prices for the camp and similar programs have stayed the same despite having two less weeks because the programs charge on a per-week or per-day basis.
School administrators and city officials seemed confident that the change will go smoothly and will benefit the community.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.