From: Ted Hazelton
On March 28, the School Board will vote on the 2019/2020 school year calendar. I encourage people to call their School Board representative and urge them to vote on option number four. A quick breakdown of the options:
1) Includes a spring break in early March with a number of early-release days
2) No spring break in early March with early-release dates
3) Spring break in early March with no early-release dates
4) No spring break in early March, and no early-release dates
There are many reasons NOT to have a spring break. It causes a childcare dilemma and a hardship for parents of preschool or elementary-aged children; there is no educational value to taking a week off school before state testing; the weather is usually terrible that time of year, not yet spring; and it lengthens the school year well into June. To elaborate, if you have children in preschool or elementary school, it is a nightmare to find childcare for that week. There are only so many private daycares in the Winona area, and Key Kids (WAPS’ childcare center) only has so much room to take on kids. Plus you have to be enrolled in that program by the beginning of the school year to be served. What daycare provider is going to take a kid for just one week? Single parents are forced to either take off work for a week without pay, or they have to burn up a bunch of vacation time to cover this — or worse, leave their kids home alone so they don’t lose their jobs (if there are no grandparents or relatives in the area). In a two-parent household, one parent has to take off for that entire week to care for their children while the other parent works. This results in less household income for that week, or half of their vacation time is now gone. Speaking of lost income, how about the school bus drivers at First Student? They are basically unemployed for a week, with no income to cover expenses. Bus drivers plan ahead for summer vacation, but not for one week in March. Who is going to hire someone for just one week?
To quote WAPS Board member Steve Schild from two years ago, “There is no educational value in taking off school for a week in early March.” Mr. Schild is spot on in this observation! More quality learning happens at school in late winter when the weather is less than pleasant, versus learning in early June, especially with no AC in the elementary buildings. By the end of May, students are ready for school to end, and are not focused on their studies, with all the end-of-year activities and field trips that happen. After the students come back from spring break, it takes a couple days to get them back into the school routine. Then, in less than two weeks, all the state-mandated testing happens. There is a mad rush for teachers to prepare students for these tests. What about special education and special-needs students? They thrive on routine, and it really messes with their schedule, which results in more behavior issues. Has anyone at WAPS considered this? WAPS administrators and some teachers tell us “it’s only for one week.” But in reality, it is nearly two full weeks! In previous years, the kids have an early release on that Friday (half-day off) the weekend (two days) Monday through Friday (five days) and the following weekend (two days). Plus, that following Monday is usually a teacher workshop day. That is 10.5 consecutive days off! About the same amount of time that occurs over Christmas vacation. When I was in school at WAPS, our “spring break” was on Good Friday and Easter Monday. With a spring break in early March, we no longer have Easter Monday off, which is needed if your family travels over the Easter holiday.
Spring break has never been a WAPS’ tradition. It started about 16 years ago. Prior to the spring-break era, school usually got out around May 30, 31, or June 1, depending on how Memorial Day fell in on the calendar. Now with spring break, school doesn’t get out until June 7-11, depending on how Labor Day falls in September, at the beginning of the school year. According to WAPS, in recent years, there seems to be more support from parents about spring break. That is because these kids that went to school in the spring-break era are now having children that are entering the school system. So to them, this is acceptable. These surveys the district does are NOT representative of the majority of parents in this district. At the last School Board meeting on March 7, this was a briefing item. Administration and the superintendent are recommending going with option three. They tell us it’s for the kids, who need a break from school. District staff are the ones that are pushing for spring break; they feel entitled to it, not the parents (your constituents). What private-sector job lets people pick and choose when they want to work? When I was on the board from 2007-2010, I heard from many parents who were less than pleased about having a spring break. In closing, I urge the School Board to seriously consider my observations on this issue, and go with option four. It’s better for our students, parents, and our sanity. If you feel as I do, please contact your School Board representatives and express this to them.