CITYWIDE — Elementary students at both of Santa Monica’s Catholic schools can look forward to shorter summer vacations and more days in the classroom next year.

Both the Saint Anne School and St. Monica’s Elementary School are planning to increase the number of instructional days following Cardinal Roger Mahony’s January announcement that all elementary schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles should move from a 180-day instructional calendar to a 200-day school year.

Saint Anne School announced it will hold its K-8 classes for 200 days next school year, and the administration at St. Monica’s said it would increase its school year to 190 days for K-8 pupils.

Both schools said parents can expect tuition increases commensurate to the increased number of days teachers will have to work.

Mahony’s push for more instructional days came as studies that show American students falling behind their counterparts around the world in academics have sparked concern from some in the education community.

“I think it’s going to make our students more competitive in the long run,” said Carol O’Day, director of marketing and development at Saint Anne School, where the academic calendar will run from Aug. 15 to June 22 next year. “We’re excited about it. It’s a very positive development from our perspective.”

The 2011-2012 school year for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District students has 180 instructional days.

The move to a longer school year has sparked some criticism from parents of Catholic school children throughout Los Angeles County who said it could interfere with vacation and other summertime plans.

But in Santa Monica, leaders at both Catholic elementary schools said push-back so far has been muted.

Thom Gasper, president of St. Monica Schools, said a handful of parents had questioned the decision, but most are onboard with increased instructional time.

The elementary school, he noted, added 35 minutes to its school day last year in order to meet a frequent request from parents to add Spanish instruction and more time for art classes to the curriculum.

“I think they have, thankfully, a pretty good amount of trust that we’re going to do what’s best for their children,” Gasper said of St. Monica’s parent community.

O’Day said many Saint Anne parents were pleased by the decision. Even though the move will add $350 to the school’s annual tuition of $3,500, she said most parents will come out ahead because of the high cost of many summertime day-care options.

“By and large, our families are families who are working in Santa Monica or in nearby areas and so having quality day-care option for another month is a positive thing, not a negative for them,” she said.

At St. Monica’s, Gasper said the decision to move to a 190-day calendar, rather than a 200-day one, would allow the school to gauge the benefits of more instructional days while minimizing disruptions.

“Why jump into something fully without having tested it?” he said.

nickt@smdp.com

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