Fremont Students Propose Calendar Shift


Emily Liu and Achintya Pinninti

On Sept. 26th, Students United for the Representation to the Fremont Board of Education (SURFBoardE) proposed a calendar shift to the Fremont school board which would shift the school year earlier to fit first semester finals before winter break. This proposal came as a result of a survey in which 46.3 percent of the 10,887 K-12 Fremont students reported winter break before finals being their biggest issue. 77 percent of FUSD students reported preferring finals before winter break than after.  

SURFBoardE’s calendar shift has two options, with the first method opting to move the calendar back one week at a time with every year, so that finals will move closer to winter break in the transition years. The second option, which would move the calendar back the necessary three weeks all in one year, was proposed to appeal those who valued tradition.

“We have to be very considerate to teachers whose personal lives would be impacted by such a drastic change. Short term pain for long term greatness,” said SURFBoardE Former President Zuhair Imaduddin when asked about the need for the first option.

The primary reasons behind this calendar shift were to reduce student stress and to accommodate the calendars of AP students and nationally competing student-athletes. It would also coordinate the FUSD calendar with that of other nearby districts. SURFBoardE, in their presentation to the school board, opined that this would positively impact student-athletes participating in fall sports by giving them more time to practice, as well as increase the revenue of sports teams, through higher attendance at games. They said it would also mean teachers of FUSD who are also parents would be able to spend the break with their children if they do not attend FUSD schools.

“The line in which SURFBoardE works in is an equitable one,” said Imaduddin.  “We want to ensure that all students have proper opportunities. We think about students who are underperforming and students who are really high performing We think about students from very privileged families and students from underprivileged families. The results from our surveys were from multiple schools, and also multiple grades, and so we believe that the population surveyed is a pretty accurate representation of FUSD students.”

They also hope to promote mental health because when students no longer feel the burden of studying, there can be more family time during winter break. Shifting the calendar would also give seniors more time to work on their college applications and/or ask teachers for recommendation letters.

“Two weeks may seem like a short amount of time but to many, it can mean the difference of being accepted into a school,” said Irene Park (12), ASB president at Washington High School who’s hoping to attend the United States Military Academy next fall. “Within the two extra weeks, I know that to any student aspiring to enter a service academy, turning in nominations to U.S senators and congressmen would be much more accessible.”

The discussion of the calendar shift during the board meeting began with SURFBoardE members Senior Pallas Chou from American High School and Senior Zuhair Imaduddin from Washington High School presenting a powerpoint to the audience and school board members, followed by shorter voluntary speeches.

“We really want to emphasize that Zuhair and I are both seniors and fighting for something that won’t even affect us,” said Pallas Chou, directed to the school board.

In response, parent and school board candidate Hiu Ng said, “It is a really noble sentiment. Leaving something better than they found it.”

In the past, the vote from elementary school teachers is the reason the calendar shift has not been accepted.

“We’ve been going to primary and secondary schools giving presentations and answering questions about [the calendar shift]. Some primary education teachers have told us that they feel that it’s really nice for SURF to come and speak to them, because they’re not necessarily made aware of these discussions,” said Imaduddin in response to the fact that elementary school teachers have historically been the reason the calendar shift has not been accepted.“They don’t see the same issues that high school students see every single day. So it’s understandable that maybe there isn’t a common understanding, but we’ve assumed that there was. So maybe that’s why this hasn’t happened yet.”

SURFBoardE has been working on preparation for the past year. The calendar is only renegotiated every three years between FUDTA and FUSD, and the upcoming vote is in spring 2019. Victoria Birbeck, head of FUDTA, assures that there is adequate communication between the student voice, school board, and the teachers.

“[Teachers] can come and meet at our meeting of our educators, educators from most every single school site in the whole district who come to that meeting. Representatives then go back to their sites; this structure helps to actually spread the word of the meeting.” explained Birbeck.

If the calendar shift is voted through, it would add to the growing list of changes the district has made with the help of students, including the accelerated math pathway, Mission’s new pool, and the NGSS curriculum.

“I’m so proud that our students engage in the decision-making process of this great wonderful school district… [it] sets a very good example for upcoming students when they engage in school district business,” added City Council Board Candidate Yang Shao. “We not only appreciate their engagement, we always try to listen to them. We also care about how they feel. We want them to feel like they’re appreciated. Invited, engaged, and eventually, they become the beneficiary of decision making.”

“Board members are politicians. And so satisfying their constituencies is important. Students let [board members] know what’s important,” said Imaduddin, cementing his belief that student voices at board meetings make a tangible difference.