IUSD drafts calendars for the next two school years; 2015-16 start date set for August

For those who like to plan ahead, the Irvine Unified School District has come up with provisional calendars for the next two school years, and while they may look similar to previous editions, there is one significant change worth noting: The first day of school in 2015-16 will be during the final week of August.

The reason? Academic and extracurricular calendars across the country have shifted in recent years, and there’s an interest in making sure IUSD students are competing on a level playing field.

Starting the school year earlier would ensure Irvine students receive more instruction in core subjects before they take high-stakes exams, including those that have a direct impact on college admissions. It would also better align the district’s high schools with athletic seasons and extracurricular events throughout the county, many of which start in August.

For those reasons and more, IUSD and the Irvine Teachers Association are jointly recommending the new calendars, which must be approved by the Board of Education.

Once again, the earlier start would not impact the upcoming 2014-15 school year, which is slated to begin on Sept. 2 for schools on the traditional calendar and July 29 for year-round sites. The following year, students at traditional-calendar schools would report back on Aug. 26, 2015, and year-round campuses would welcome back students on July 21, 2015. Other key dates are listed below.

Eamonn O’Donovan, assistant superintendent of human resources, said there is an interest in continuing the earlier start date in subsequent years, providing consistency over time. The first day for students has generally been dependent upon the placement of the Labor Day holiday, he said, and that can fluctuate between Sept. 1 and Sept. 10. As a result, the end of school can sometimes be as late as the third week of June.

“Beginning the school year in August would provide additional instruction in core curriculum for the thousands of high school students who take high-stakes tests, including the SAT, ACT and advanced placement exams, which are significant for college admission and important to our students,” O’Donovan said. “In addition, many high school athletics and extracurricular activities in Orange County are scheduled during last two weeks of August.”

An earlier start also means students would be released earlier in June, giving high schoolers a better chance at landing summer jobs and offering graduates more flexibility to attend college orientation sessions.

The new calendars were developed by representative committees of district staff and teachers, taking into account the long-term implications for students, families and employees at year-round and traditional-calendar sites. Implementation of the earlier start date was delayed until 2015-16 to give families and staff ample time to prepare.

“The bottom line is what’s best for kids,” O’Donovan said, “and we feel that we’ve developed an academic calendar that will provide consistency, as well as a beneficial arrangement of instructional days.”

The IUSD Board of Education is expected to vote on the two calendars in January. In the meantime, if you have input on either 2014-15 or 2015-16, you can click here to leave comments. This link will be live until Jan. 6. [Update: To ensure the district gets as much feedback as possible, the response form will be open through Feb. 1.]