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Summer vacation will be shorter this year for students in elementary schools operated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which has announced plans to extend the school year by 20 days.
According to Carolina Guevara, associate director of media relations for the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the plan is moving forward, and administrators at the individual schools will be in charge of deciding exactly how to implement the change, depending on their needs. The new calendar is intended to go into effect beginning this summer, and the school year will now run from Aug. 15 through June 22. This year, the catholic schools’ calendar ran from Sept. 7 through June 17.
“The schools will have the choice to start the changes this year or next, but we are still going ahead with the change for this year,” Guevara said. “We are beginning the process now of letting people know about it, and the individual schools are meeting with parents to discuss the plan.”
The additional school days are intended to give students more time in the classroom for learning, and to make the Catholic schools more competitive with public and private schools. The change comes at a time when many catholic schools are seeking to boost enrollment, and officials with the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles hope parents will view the longer school calendar as being beneficial to their children.
“The relationship between more substantive, effective time in an academic setting and increased student performance is clear, and the elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are responding to this critical national issue in order that our students grow up to be successful leaders in the global workforce,” said Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in a statement. “Our students consistently rank high in academic achievement and our graduation rates are among the highest in the nation. I am confident that this additional month of instructional time will enhance the already strong academic and moral foundation provided to our Catholic school students.”
Guevara said the archdiocese has received “a few complaints” since the plan for the extended calendar was announced on Jan. 27 — mostly from parents concerned about having to change plans for summer trips — but said the overwhelming response from parents has been positive. She said an article in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that stated that the archdiocese may scale back the plan was misleading, and added that the intention was always for the individual schools to determine how to best implement the new calendar. Guevara said there are 210 elementary schools that will be affected, and approximately 70 percent have indicated that they will implement the plan this summer, while the remainder have not yet decided whether it will be implemented this summer or in 2012.
Officials at Cathedral Chapel School in the Miracle Mile are planning to implement the new calendar this summer, and according to Principal Tina Kipp, it will be very beneficial to students. There are currently 285 students enrolled at Cathedral Chapel School in grades K-8th.
Public schools are cutting back on the number of days, so we are hoping this will make people take a look at Catholic schools,” Kipp said. “We will be very flexible with our families if they have already made plans, but we are excited about the change.”
Kipp said many parents already enroll their children in the four-week optional summer school enrichment program. She added that the additional instruction days will give the students a head start on testing in the fall.
Heather Risinger, the president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Cathedral Chapel, said she has been fielding numerous calls and e-mails from parents, and added that people feel very strongly on both sides of the issue. She said many parents are very excited, but others are angry over having to make changes to summer plans.
“The reaction was very divided. People seem to be really happy or really unhappy about it, there is no middle ground,” said Risinger, who has two children in the 6th and 8th grade at the school. “From my personal point of view, I’m not sure if it is a good thing or not until we go through it.”
Some of the parent chaperones at Cathedral Chapel who help students as they are dropped off in the morning also had a mixed reaction. Thad Dufelmeier, who has sons in the 2nd and 8th grades at the school, said at first he was uncertain.
“My gut reaction was that I would prefer it to stay the same, but the educational benefits outweigh the inconvenience,” Dufelmeier said.
Parent Kathleen Lee, who has daughters in the 4th and 6th grade at Cathedral Chapel, said she is embracing the new calendar.
“It’s not affecting me. I think it’s good because the kids get bored during the long vacation,” Lee said. “They already go to summer school, so it won’t make that much of a difference.”
Principal Suzanne Jones, of Blessed Sacrament School in Hollywood, said she is also excited about the plan. The school is currently looking to boost enrollment, and Jones said the new calendar will help make the school more competitive. She added that it will also be positive for the school’s sports teams, which will have more time to prepare for their seasons.
“I’m hoping it will have a positive impact on the school. We are looking to add more students and L.A. Unified is having budgetary problems, so I hope it will cause parents to take a look at our school,” Jones said. “Children may not like it because it means more school days, but parents are always looking for ways to keep their children occupied during the summer, and this is another opportunity. Parents who have vacations planned then will probably not be pleased, but I believe they will make adjustments.”
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