More than 32,000 Orange County students started classes at three public school districts and two charter schools Monday morning, in a wave of school openings.

The start of the academic year is staggered across the county’s 28 districts.

Fullerton School District, Fullerton Joint Union High School District, Buena Park School District and two charter schools in Santa Ana Unified – Edward B. Cole Academy and Nova Academy – kicked off the school year today.

“I’m always excited about the first day of school. It brings me back to my days as a schoolboy,” said Bob Pletka, superintendent of Fullerton School District. “It’s fun to see about new possibilities for our kids, creating new opportunities for our kids.”

Three schools in Anaheim City School District – one of the few districts with year-round track schools – started classes in July, making them the first to herald the new school year. Orange County’s largest school district, Santa Ana Unified, begins classes Aug. 27. Students at Saddleback Valley Unified and Irvine Unified schools won’t start classes until Sept. 10, at the tail end of the launch for roughly 500,000 public school students in Orange County.

The range of starting dates can be a cause of frustration for some parents – nowhere more so this year than in La Habra City, where parents of sixth- and seventh-graders said they were not notified until early August that the two grades would start classes on Friday instead of Aug. 19.

Buena Park School District bumped up its first day of classes by nearly two weeks so its elementary schools would begin today, the same day as Fullerton Joint Union High School District, which the district feeds.

Though parents were notified during the previous school year, it’s been a tough transition, said Jon Hultman, PTA president at Corey Elementary.

“This year it’s a little bit of a shock to the system, like losing an hour for daylight savings time,” Hultman said.

Starting school earlier gives high school students more time to prepare for Advanced Placement exams, he said. The school year will end in May instead of June.

Hultman suggested parents new to a school get involved in campus organizations and volunteer in classrooms so they’ll be aware of classroom dynamics.

Teachers and students heading back to campuses this fall should be prepared for subtle but significant changes, as district administrators work to implement the new Common Core State Standards and begin re-prioritizing campus finances under the new Local Control Funding Formula.

A challenge this year for educators will be preparing for the Common Core and new instructional approaches, while still using the current assessment system and standards, Pletka said.

“That’s a challenge that universally we will all be facing in California,” he said.

It is also the first year since the recession that school districts are not facing funding cuts.

Though teachers and administrators across the county say they are optimistic about school finances stabilizing after half a decade of cutbacks and layoffs, it will be at least another year before all students in the county see a full 180 days of instruction.

At least three districts – Buena Park, Brea Olinda Unified and La Habra City Elementary – will provide 175 days of student instruction. Capistrano Unified and Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified are planning 177-day school years, while Orange Unified will hold class on 179 days.



Anaheim City (Tracks A, B, C — Ponderosa, Edison, Mann): July 8

Opportunities for Learning – Capistrano: July 8

Anaheim City (Track D — Ponderosa, Edison, Mann): Aug. 5

Buena Park: Aug. 12

Edward B. Cole Academy: Aug. 12

Fullerton: Aug. 12

Fullerton Joint Union: Aug. 12

Nova Academy: Aug. 12

Fullerton: Aug. 13

La Habra City: Aug. 16

El Rancho Charter: Aug. 19

La Habra City: Aug. 19

Anaheim City (21 single track schools): Aug. 20

OCSA: Aug. 20

Santiago Middle: Aug. 20

El Rancho Charter: Aug. 21

Orange: Aug. 21

Orange County Educational Arts Academy:  Aug. 21

Santiago Middle: Aug. 21

The Academy:  Aug. 22

Anaheim Union: Aug. 26

Centralia: Aug. 26

Magnolia:  Aug. 26

Savanna:  Aug. 26

Cypress:  Aug. 27

Santa Ana:  Aug. 27

Huntington Beach Union:  Aug. 28

Los Alamitos:  Aug. 28

Brea-Olinda: Sept. 3

Capistrano Connections Academy Charter: Sept. 3

El Sol Santa Ana Science and Arts Academy: Sept. 3

Garden Grove: Sept. 3

Laguna Beach: Sept. 4

Newport Mesa: Sept. 3

Fountain Valley: Sept. 4

Huntington Beach City: Sept. 4

Journey: Sept. 4

Ocean View: Sept. 4

Oxford Preparatory Academy – South Orange County: Sept. 4

Tustin: Sept. 4

Westminster: Sept. 4

Placentia Yorba Linda: Sept. 6

Capistrano: Sept. 9

Community Roots Academy: Sept. 9

Irvine: Sept. 10

Ralph A. Gates Elementary: Sept. 10

Saddleback Valley: Sept. 10