The school district calls them "collaboration days." Students call them "awesome." Parents say they're a pain. Everyone can call them confusing.
Modesto City Schools adopted a traditional calendar this year with some untraditional twists.
Elementary schools have added more minimum days for teacher collaboration.
Junior high and high schools have added 20 "late-start" Wednesdays hopscotching through the calendar. Classes start 65 minutes later than usual, but school ends at the normal time.
The odd start times are intended to give teachers time to meet and discuss their work, said Thor Harrison, director of 7-12 education for the district.
Students who show up early generally can wait in the library, the computer lab or in a supervised area of campus, district and school personnel said.
Any day there's a 10 a.m. start time is a hit with high school students, at least it is for those leaving Johansen campus Wednesday afternoon, the second late-start day of the year.
"I think they're awesome. You can sleep in past 7," sophomore Kayla Wallace said.
"It's cool," freshman Zee Chatman said.
"We get to hang out with our friends more. Sometimes you don't have class with your friends," said freshman Lesley Anderson.
"If you don't finish your homework the day before, you get time to do it," senior Erica Mann said.
Mann is an old hand at late-start days. Johansen piloted the concept for the past two years as part of a five-year, $1 million federal Small Learning Communities grant, project director Jennie Sweeney said. Other Modesto high schools implemented them for the first time this month.
Proof is in test scores?
Sweeney credits the hourlong teacher workshops for Johansen's strong showing in state test scores this year.
"It's through this time, these days that we get to collaborate, that we work on instructional strategies," Sweeney said.
"It's given (teachers) the time they need to discuss what's working, tweak what's not working," agreed Johansen Associate Principal Julie Moore.
Johansen parents picking up children Wednesday had mixed reactions to the late starts. One called it "a pain," but another said it's not a problem.
"It's OK. My daughter likes it," said Melissa Lopez, mother of a 10th-grader.
At junior high schools, where the schedule is new and no students can drive themselves, parents were less forgiving.
"It was very shocking to see the number of late-start days ... There was no mention of this change before school ended last school year," said junior high parent Debbie Raj. "We are playing it by ear every week ... My husband and I both commute for work, so are we going to have to hire someone to take her to school?"
"It's a huge burden on working parents. There is no rhyme or reason to the late-start schedule," said Mandy Walsh, a La Loma parent. "There are 20 late-start days and 17 minimum days, and then five furlough days. ... I am so thankful for the flexibility of my boss."
Another parent was upset about teaching time lost.
"My concern is that this year, the district has eliminated a lot of in-school class time for our children," junior high parent Mary Dewing said. "We have lost five days because of teacher furlough days, our school day has been shortened by 15 minutes and now they've implemented late-start days at least twice a month."
In Ceres, late-start days every other week have been a fixture at Mae Hensley Junior High since the early 1990s, Deputy Superintendent Mary Jones said Wednesday. Blaker-Kinser Junior High and Central Valley High both opened with the program.
"Teacher collaboration is so powerful. To have them talking about instruction, sharing ideas, getting ideas. It's so important," Jones said. Years ago, she added, parents didn't seem to mind the change.
"You know, I don't recall it being at all controversial."
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.