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Spring break is back (03/10/2014)
By Amelia Wedemeyer
Spring break plans for the 2014-2015 school year can continue as planned after the Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board approved a district-wide calendar option presented Thursday night, which gives students and faculty the week of March 30 to April 3 off.

“Spring break is a full week,” Winona Senior High School (WSHS) principal Kelly Halvorsen said, referring to the first of two options presented to the board. The other option considered did not include a spring break.

According to an online survey of WAPS employees, the majority of staff voted for the first option, which provides a spring break. Of the employees who responded, 209 voted in favor of a calendar with a spring break, while 61 voted for the calendar without one. In a separate survey taken by WAPS parents in the fall of 2013, 191 said they would like spring break to continue, while 114 said that they would not.

“[The Calendar Committee] worked very hard to put this together and I think it would be very wise of this board to choose option one,” board member Tina Lehnertz said. “Parents want spring break and our staff have voted for that also.”

Board member Ben Baratto seemed to agree with Lehnertz and spoke in favor of spring break because of the support of WAPS teachers and families. Last year, the board opted for a calendar for the current school year with three days off in April, rather than the traditional week off.

“Last year I had a problem, the vote was almost tied, and if I remember right, I voted against spring break,” Baratto recalled. “But this year I think it’s very conclusive that there is strong support for spring break.”

The main concern board members expressed about having a weeklong break was that students would have a five-day stretch of time during which there would be no learning, especially students who would not be traveling. Board member Jeanne Nelson said spring break could be a time for student enrichment and learning outside of school. Many of the other board members expressed interest in Nelson’s idea, which would need to be further explored.

“In the future, if there’s a break, wouldn’t it be wonderful to think of productive ways to use that time for those not being able to go on a trip?” she asked. “I think going on a little trip with the family is extremely important; however, there are those who get left behind. In the future we could use [this week] as enrichment. Maybe find ways to work with the Y, city [Park and Recreation], and other organizations.”

Emergency closing plan

The board also approved an emergency closing plan outlining how the district would handle six or more days of school canceled due to an emergency or snowstorm. Full days would not be made up unless at least seven days were canceled, and make-up days would be contingent upon an agreement with district unions.

The first three days are not required to be made up. If four, five, or six days are missed, students would not be released early on the next early-release day, time that is typically used for teacher groups called Professional Learning Communities (PLC). According to the plan, teachers would have to hold their PLC meetings "on [their] own time."

WAPS has thus far canceled school four times. 


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