Calendar Constricted

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

The new compressed calendar for the 2018-19 year will keep spring break, while introducing a three-week winter intercession.

The 16-week compressed schedule’s final draft was released by the United Faculty Sept. 18 and will be implemented districtwide, beginning the fall 2018 semester, which will begin on Aug. 27 and end on Dec. 14.

A new winter intercession will provide short-term intensive classes to prepare students for the spring semester.

Students enrolled in the winter intersession will have a week-long winter recess before classes commence on Jan. 2 and end Jan 22.

Then, within a week, the 2019 spring semester will begin on Jan. 28 and end May 24.

Discussions by UF over the summer brought alternatives to the table regarding the length of the 2019 spring semester.

The Aug. 31 faculty survey in the UF Table Talk weekly newsletter suggested the removal of spring break that would have allowed the semester  to end on May 31, rather than June 7.

UF Vice President for Contra Costa College Jeffrey Michels said, “About 52 percent of the faculty members who responded to the UF calendar survey said they preferred the option of eliminating spring break to the option of ending the spring semester in June.”

“We did receive pretty overwhelming feedback indicating that faculty did not like either option.

“Our faculty wanted more time to understand and discuss both spring break and the general plans for intersessions,” Michels said. “We wanted more time to get student input and review data of the best practices from other colleges.”

The final draft of the academic calendar was made in alignment with district colleges Diablo Valley, in Pleasant Hill, and Los Medanos, in Pittsburg, and in agreement with district officials.

Structured to match the 2017-18 schedule, the 2018-19 academic calendar includes a slightly longer winter break to create the three-week winter intersession.

“I expect CCC to find boot camp classes and other short-term intensive classes designed to get students ready for their spring classes,” Michels said. “We may decide as a district to make more changes for 2019-20, but we have plenty of time to talk over the range of options to make informed choices.”

Biology professor Ellen Coatney said she was one of the faculty members who argued against the removal of spring break because it pushed the semester’s end back into June.

“I felt that ending in June was too late and that our students would find hardships as their children were out of school and they were still in school,” she said.

“Once it was decided to start (winter intersession) earlier in January, so that ending before Memorial Day was a possibility, spring break sounded like a good tradition to keep.”

Coatney said spring break can be beneficial because it gives students and instructors a break to catch up. But the fact that some students never return is a reason to remove the break.

“Many of us argued that removing the break would help more students finish because they would just keep going,” Coatney said.

The other big change to the 2018-19 semester schedule is the format of Finals Week. Instead of a full week off to prepare for finals, that week will now be used for teaching, with the final given on the last day of instruction.

With the semester compressed from 18 to 16 weeks, the biological sciences department is scrambling to arrange its course offerings.

“We (in the biological sciences department) have always used both days of Finals Week for labs and lecture exams,” she said. “Instead of giving a single long test, we are likely to give two short tests to split the material.”

For science courses, which require a variety of labs, it is crucial to stay engaged.

“With going to the 16-week semester, we have to cut two labs and we aren’t sure which ones to cut because they all seem so important,” Coatney said.

Academic Senate Vice President Rick Ramos said that the UF and its management groups ran out of time to really hammer out all the final kinks.

“It’s disappointing when you can’t get everything done,” he said. “But when you are dealing with different groups of people, certain aspects of education need to be addressed. If things are not planned out smoothly and CCC gets audited, the campus would lose money.”

Ramos said the academic calendar doesn’t look much different, aside from students not having Finals Week off.

“Seeing how these changes to the 2018-19 academic calendar work out is going to be key in the steps to take in the future,” he said.