Sat, May

LAUSD’s Misplaced Priorities: Students and Parents Need a Real Summer Break


ALPERN AT LARGE--I am what you would call a "hard-ass"--I work three jobs, do all sorts of unpaid civic endeavors, and live in a household where the wife and two kids work hard and stay very busy.  "Downtime" is probably something we should do more, so I am the LAST person who'd downplay the need to keep up with global competition--but the LAUSD school schedule is clearly harmful for the well-being of our students and their families.

SOMEONE's agenda is dominating the early-summer, get-back-to-school-in-August schedule, but it sure as hell ain't the students and their parents.  The summers are too quick, and the ability of children and their parents to be allowed a life is being smashed.

It's not hard to "get it" with respect to global competition, and the need to stay competitive with European and Asian students competing for fewer and fewer well-paying jobs.  

It's also not hard to "get it" when one learns that the first month of a teacher's school year is spent bringing kids back to speed after a long, three-month summer vacation...kids need to relax, to sleep in, and maybe even watch a bit of television, but their minds can't be allowed to vegetate.

My last CityWatch article addressed the lack of affordability in Los Angeles, and the inability of our City to do what's right to allow for true affordability for the average Angeleno.

But as more and more Angelenos have to work multiple jobs, and have longer shifts just to make ends meet, the need to spend time with family becomes greater than ever.  Kids need to go camping, visit our national parks, and enjoy the beach, the mountains, or even just a backyard barbecue.  Call it quality of life.

And that's not to say we should require summertime verification of reading lists and other "to-do" lists, or summertime workbooks.  I really do NOT give a rip about parents too lazy to make sure their children's brains don't vegetate in front of an iPad all summer long--summer can be fun, but life and learning doesn't end when the LAUSD goes on break.

And speaking of breaks, why is there such a long winter break (3 weeks, and perhaps 4 weeks if one counts the full week off for Thanksgiving) but only a single week for the spring?  There's probably a reason or three, but it's still ridiculously lopsided--and prevents a balanced work/play ratio for parents, students, and even the teachers.

I am a dermatologist by trade, and have many teachers in my Orange and Riverside County clinics--so in my various discussions on this topic I've learned that they virtually all have better and more student/family-focused schedules than the LAUSD.   

I am quite aware of, and overall do support, the advanced requirements and preparation for AP classes in high school--my son worked his tail off this summer for AP World History with six chapters of textbook reading, two books, and a host of maps to memorize--he stepped up, and both he and his class are hitting the ground running.   

I am proud of my son, and support this "hitting the ground running" with these sorts of endeavors.  I am also proud of my elementary school-aged daughter, who did some father/daughter workbook studying to stay focused and learn a few things. 

But we also learned things when we went on vacation to the East Coast, and had fun at Dollywood, and saw the awe-inspring changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.  

We got rained on and drenched before seeing Luray Caverns in western Virginia. We got inspired at a Friendly's restaurant in Fredericksburg when we bumped into a local tour guide, who gave my son a Union Army bullet discarded in that hellish Civil War battle where the Union Army got slaughtered. 

So let's not shred the lives and happiness of hard-working students and their families.  We can be both competitive and humane...and we can also make damn sure the LAUSD School Board figures out who the hell their FIRST priority is:  the students and their parents! 

We can and should: 

1) Start the 2017-18 School Year after Labor Day, or the week before Labor Day.  Starting school in mid-August is both horrible for parents and their families, and requires horrible air conditioning bills that markedly increase the operational costs for the LAUSD.  Either way, it's horrible. 

2) Balance the winter and spring breaks.  Right now we've got about three weeks off in December and January … and one full week off (instead of just Thursday and Friday) for Thanksgiving. 

Meanwhile, we've got but one week off in the spring.  Two weeks in the winter, and two weeks in the spring makes sense (and don't worry--we can make sure the AP students are still working hard). 

Destroying summer for everyone doesn't make sense.  And the winter/spring imbalance strikes me as rather cruel and focused on either the benefits for administrators or for the teachers...but certainly not the parents and students.  There are clearly agendas that are being promoted, but they're not promoting the needs of the students and their families.


(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)


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