The Los Angeles Unified School District board unanimously approved a instructional calendar for the 2021-22 Tuesday, without a 10-day extension of the year that had been proposed in hopes of making up for instructional time lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The district’s staff this week dropped the recommended extension of the school year in response to strong opposition from teachers, administrators and parents.
According to a staff report released Monday, a survey conducted in late April found 75% of teachers and 62% of administrators wanted no change to the 2021-22 instructional calendar.
Superintendent Austin Beutner acknowledged the opposition while speaking the Board of Education Tuesday, but he continued to advocate for additional classroom time, noting that the state is providing the district with funds — roughly $400 million — with the governor recommending that students be given more instructional hours.
“My aim when the new school year starts is to make sure all students, including those from communities hardest hit by COVID, are well on the path to recovery,” Beutner said. “And that each student has the social, emotional and instructional support they will need. That happens best in a school. For all who speak of the need for a greater emphasis on equity in public education, this issue presents a real test. Can we provide the extra time in a school classroom that children from families in communities hardest hit by COVID will need to recover?
“Of course, we will make sure each student has as much instructional and mental health support as possible while they are at school. But those extra supports are not a substitute for more time in school.”
He said the district approached leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing teachers, about options for adding instructional hours “with full pay, including pension benefits, for any additional work.” The options included extending the school year or school day, offering regular Saturday school or shortening the Thanksgiving of winter breaks.
“They would not agree to any of these,” he said.
Funding provided to the district by the state to extend the school year or offer more instructional time for students will be offered to individual schools. But Beutner said, “More time is only possible if schools are properly staffed to open.”
UTLA officials have said students, teachers and staff should not be subjected to an extended school year on the heels of the pandemic.
“We can’t follow the most stressful and emotionally traumatic year our learning communities have ever had with the longest school year we’ve ever had,” the union posted Tuesday on Twitter. “Now the work begins to allocate funding in impactful ways to help our students recover from disruptions to learning and pandemic-related trauma.”
As a result, the board unanimously approved a traditional 180-day instructional calendar. Many members expressed reluctance at the decision, saying they would have preferred some form of additional instruction time. But they conceded that without support from teachers, administrators and parents, the idea was not yet feasible.
Board member Jackie Goldberg said she spoke to numerous parents from various school sites, and there was almost universal opposition to an extended school year, with most citing an “exhaustion factor.”
“The parents were saying, `We’re tired, and the kids are tired. And we need a break,” she said.
Goldberg and other board members said they would like to revisit the idea of an extended school calendar for the 2022-23 school year.
Under the calendar adopted by the board, the first day of instruction for the fall semester for most campuses will be Aug. 16 — one day earlier than originally proposed, with the final day of school on June 10, also one day earlier than the original schedule. The switch was made so the school year will end on a Friday, rather than a Monday.
The second semester will begin Monday, Jan. 10, with winter recess from Dec. 20 through Friday, Jan. 7. Spring recess will be April 11-15. The district will recognize Cesar Chavez Day on Monday, March 28, rather than the usual Friday date.
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