School year change might affect 2011 theme park attendance
Written by Robert Niles
The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted last night to change the school year calendar for Southern California's largest school district. Starting next fall, LA Unified schools will start on August 15, instead of after Labor Day, as they have for generations. My local school district, Pasadena Unified, is considering a similar change to an August start, as are other districts in the area.Tweet
Traditionally, Southern California school systems have ended in June and started after Labor Day. That schedule helps save on utility costs, I've been told, because the area's "June gloom" keeps temperatures cooler during that month than the broiling conditions we typically get in August. Therefore, it's cheaper to keep school buildings open in June than in August.
However, the rest of the country, it seems, gets out in May and returns in August. We joke around here how Target and other stores roll out their "Back to School" displays in July, just a week or two after kids have gotten out of school.
The switches bring many Southern California schools in line with the rest of the country, but also might affect theme park attendance for 2011.
Hundreds of thousands of children in Southern California are going to get a very short summer vacation in 2011 - just two months, instead of the traditional three. That means one less month to visit (or work at) local theme parks.
The change also will mean a shift in attendance patterns for Southern California parks. Right now, if you're planning to visit a theme park in May - go to Southern California. With schools in session through June, attendance lags at the parks. But if you're planning a late August visit - go to Florida. Schools there are back in session there and theme park attendance sags. But in California, the theme parks are packed, as many summer programs and camps are done for the season and thousands of local kids and their families pack the parks in the last few weeks before school starts. (Late August, after Disneyland has lifted its summer annual pass blockouts, is perhaps the most crowded time of the year to visit that park.)
The change promises to bring the Southern California parks more in line with parks around the country, increasing attendance in May and lowering it in late August. But this year, the parks will get the lowered attendance in August without the increase in May.
Granted, Disneyland's packed pretty much all the time anymore, whether schools are in session or not - a "slow" day there is a very relative term. But the switch could have a real impact on Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios Hollywood - both in Los Angeles County - as well as on nearby Knott's Berry Farm.
Just a heads-up as we look forward to 2011.
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