The SFUSD Calendar Committee Reconvened on Tuesday, November 17th to Discuss Input on Proposed Changes
Upon reconvening, the SFUSD Calendar Committee considered input from teachers union and administrators union reps, SFUSD’s human resources department and parent groups (PPS-SF and the Second District PTA) on the proposal to take a full week off at Thanksgiving during the next school year (SY 16 - 17).
The teachers union reported that their elected leadership had voted in favor of keeping the version of the calendar that did not include a full week off at Thanksgiving. There were no formal reasons given, but the union leadership commented that the earlier start in August may have been a factor. Teachers also were concerned that this would be a hardship for families.
The administrators union reported near unanimous support for taking the full week off at Thanksgiving. Rationale included the difficulty in maintaining safe conditions at schools with large numbers of teacher, substitutes and special ed paraprofessionals taking personal days during this week. Many central office administrators are called to cover classes across the district during this week.
Input from SFUSD Department of Human Resources
SFUSD Human Resources reported that there are already 250 scheduled absences for next Monday and 275 for next Tuesday. They have been able to cover many of these scheduled absences, but predict that by Friday the number will grow to 700 and there is not capacity to fill these positions with available subs. This happens every year near the Thanksgiving holiday.
Parent feedback was nearly evenly split between those in favor and those against taking the week off. Many parents who were not in favor indicated that additional days off could amount to serious hardship. They expressed concerns about the potential for lost wages and lack of access to childcare. Many parents who were in favor of taking the week off at Thanksgiving supported the idea only if it did not mean starting school earlier in August.
An option was considered that would maintain the August 15th start and allow a full week off at Thanksgiving by abandoning the Columbus/Indigenous Peoples Day holiday in October and nixing the Friday off before the start of spring break. Veterans Day is non-negotiable as it is a Federal holiday.
While this new option satisfied the preference expressed by teachers and families to not start the school year earlier, discussion turned back to the adverse impact this decision would have on some families in our district. It was noted that outreach to families to obtain input on this decision was not conducted in a manner likely to reach many parents who might be adversely impacted by this decision. In particular, it was noted that outreach was done almost entirely online and in English.
Decision: No Change Planned to Thanksgiving Week Schedule for Next Year
All parties agreed that although there are valid reasons for SFUSD to consider taking the whole week off at Thanksgiving in the future, there was not enough opportunity for broad-based input on the decision and not enough systems in place to remediate hardships that may be suffered by families if this change were to be made effective next year. So for the 2016-2017 school year the first day of school will be August 15th and students will attend school on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. The calendar still needs to be finalized and formally approved but it is unlikely that there will be substantive changes.
Committee members committed themselves to working to find creative solutions to keep schools staffed during the days leading up to Thanksgiving and to developing a plan to communicate any proposed changes to the calendar more broadly through school site leadership.