wayside

Students wait in line for first day registration at Wayside Elementary School in the Bakersfield City School District.

Kasey Meredith/ The Californian

Even as thousands of students marked the first day of school Wednesday in the Bakersfield City School District, some of their parents were scratching their heads, wondering about the last day of school.

For the first time in anyone's memory, BCSD has scheduled the last day of school on a Monday. That's right. According to the district's calendar for this academic year, the last day of instruction falls on June 4, 2018, a Monday.

"This is clearly poor planning," said Nona Darling, whose daughter, Gracie, started her eighth-grade year at Downtown School on Wednesday.

Darling wondered aloud whether some parents — possibly many parents — throughout the district will opt to begin their summer vacations over the weekend, and allow their children to skip the last day.

"They're going to face a low-attendance problem," Darling said of the city's largest K-8 school district.

The unusual scheduling choice came as a result of negotiations between the district and the Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association — the district's teachers' union — for more professional development days, said BCSD spokeswoman Irma Cervantes.

The district will encourage parents to send their kids on the final day, even though it's a minimum day falling on a Monday, Cervantes added.

Will the district lose Average Daily Attendance dollars, state funding based on student attendance?

"I guess we'll have to wait and see," Cervantes said. "We're focusing on the first day of school right now."

BETA President Steve Comstock said it's true that the union negotiated with the district to add two academic conference days to the school year — one in November and the second in March — that will allow administrators and educators at all school sites to access data from benchmark testing, evaluate it and plan their response in the classroom.

No students will attend on those days, so the normal Thursday ending for the school year pushed the last day to a Monday.

"Our bargaining team had other ideas," Comstock said. "But the district wasn't interested."

One idea was to shave off the Monday after Easter, making it an instructional day again. Another idea was to start school on Tuesday of this week rather than Wednesday. Either choice would have allowed for a last day on a Friday.

One other problem caused by the Monday end date is exclusive to eighth-graders, Comstock said. The Kern High School District starts its summer school session on Monday, June 4, so BCSD eighth-graders planning on attending KHSD's summer session would start the session with an absence — not an auspicious beginning for a brand-new freshman.

Could the calendar be changed?

"I think it could be," Comstock said. "It's on paper, not carved in stone."

But BCSD's Cervantes said it's unlikely that calendar will be adjusted. However, district administrators, she added, are in conversations with the high school district in hopes that BCSD eighth-graders will not be penalized for missing the first day of summer session.

Will parents send their kids to school? Of will they go to Disneyland instead?

"It honestly depends," Kris DeLano, the mother of twin boys, said. "If they had an opportunity to go to Disneyland or the science museum or something cool, I wouldn't hesitate.

"However, I also love the last day. It's a party," she said. "And my sons haven't missed one yet."

Seeing his daughters miss the last day, often considered a tradition if not a rite of passage, did not sit well with Jason Sperber, either.

"As a parent of two daughters at two different BCSD campuses with totally different daily schedules, I always felt that having to return after Memorial Day for a basically wasted week of movies and parties and winding-down was not a good use of time," Sperber said in a text. "I always wished the year ended the Friday before Memorial Day. Now, to return for a final (minimum) day after a truncated week, when teachers do final parties before the last day anyway?

"Plus with a graduating eighth-grader whose graduation will likely be during that precious week (making the last Monday officially useless)? It doesn't make a lot of logistical sense."

Dad Francis Mayer said because his wife and he both work full-time, he doesn't anticipate keeping his kids out of the last day of school.

"It's a rite of passage and a final goodbye in many instances," said Mayer (no relation to this reporter). "I wouldn't want either of them to miss that sense of closure. I don't anticipate keeping them out of the last day of school, even with the strange scheduling decision."

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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