Calendar Committee Discusses Family Feedback

Before winter break, Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco (PPS-SF) shared the results of its SFUSD 2017–2018 School Calendar Survey, including all individual comments and demographic information, with members of the committee proposing the district calendar for 2017–2018.

The calendar committee is made up of SFUSD staff, representatives from parent organizations, and leaders of unions representing teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and service employees. The committee met on January 3 to discuss the survey results, and PPS-SF shared a summary of what we heard from parents who participated in the survey. Here are some highlights of what we presented:

Overall, the survey showed that a strong majority of parents support a later start and later end to the school year.

Alignment with summer camp schedules and the school schedules of family and friends in other districts, states, and countries were the most frequently described reasons for preferring a later start. Others listed travel during August and taking advantage of good weather in San Francisco as benefits of a later start to the school year. Those preferring an earlier start were concerned about balancing the number of days between the fall and spring semesters and keeping the SFUSD schedule aligned with City College of San Francisco (CCSF). They also noted that early summer travel can be cheaper and allows families to “beat the crowds."

A slight majority of parents prefer a full week off at Thanksgiving, however, more than 36% of parents and students feel that taking the full week off would be a hardship.

We also noted that the demographics of the survey participants do not completely reflect the families in our district. Those who may be the most impacted by additional days off may not have participated in this survey.

Those who prefer a full week off at Thanksgiving commented that they appreciate downtime for kids and families and less stressful travel to visit relatives. They are also concerned about low quality instruction and school climate during the school days preceding the Thanksgiving break. Difficulty finding and affording childcare and inability to take time off of work to care for students home for multiple days are the primary concerns of those who oppose a longer break at Thanksgiving. Many parents are concerned that school break camps and programs such as those offered by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department fill up too quickly, don’t offer enough spots, and don’t provide care during the hours needed by working parents. Some noted that middle class families who do not qualify for free programs have trouble affording camps.

Some participants suggested ideas for how SFUSD might support families during days off.

Ideas included hosting sports and athletic events, offering special classes, and collaborating with local libraries, museums, movie theaters, etc., to provide activities for youth. Parents also asked that a list of camps and activities be provided in advance and that programs be available in all neighborhoods and for all students, including students with disabilities.

Only about a third of parents and students would favor keeping the holiday on October 9 (Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day) if there were a full week break at Thanksgiving.

Some respondents find Columbus Day to be an “offensive” holiday and noted that childcare is a burden as most adults do not have the day off. They also are concerned about making up for lost instructional time from all of the days off in the fall. Those who hope to keep the holiday want to respect Native American culture and feel that kids could use the break.

In addition to the comments in the PPS-SF survey, a letter was presented to the committee on this issue from the Indian Education Parent Advisory Committee asking that Indigenous People’s Day continue to be observed.

Parents and students expressed no clear preference on the issue of an earlier or later winter break.

Next Steps

After discussion of the concerns raised by parents, as well as consideration of input from union representatives and data from the SFUSD Human Resources Department, it was proposed that the calendar committee meet again next week. In the meantime, members will gather additional information about options for childcare and programming during a longer Thanksgiving break and consult with City College of San Francisco to ensure that proposed changes to the SFUSD calendar would align with the CCSF calendar. It is likely that after next week’s meeting a decision will be made and the proposed 2017–2018 calendar will be sent to the Board of Education for approval at the January 24 Board of Education meeting.

View Survey Results

Click these links for graphs showing survey results:

English - 3897 participants (3425 parents or students) representing 124 schools

Chinese - 88 participants representing 46 schools

Spanish - 51 participants representing 28 schools