Rethink Split School Vacations

Many local schools have just completed another year of split one-week spring-semester vacations.

It may be time to rethink these.

It used to be that during the spring semester, schools had one two-week vacation, plus assorted individual days off.

That two-week vacation took place during Holy Week and the week after Easter.

That vacation varied with Easter and occurred sometime from late March to late April.

When Easter fell in late April, school calendars had an especially long stretch from Christmas vacation to Easter vacation with no significant time off.

A good solution to this was implemented when the two-week Easter vacation became a two-week spring vacation. It was regularly scheduled between the third and fourth quarters and started in early April.

Sometimes this spring vacation included Easter, and sometimes it didn’t.

Either way, it was a spring vacation, not an Easter vacation.

This paradoxically pleased some local pastors, because they didn’t always lose significant numbers from their congregations during Holy Week or on Easter.

This good solution was not long lived. Many local schools now have split one-week spring-semester vacations: One during the week of Presidents’ Day, in February, and one during Holy Week or the week after Easter.

Teachers tend, by the nature of their jobs, to be independent thinkers, and one won’t find, among teachers, uniform opinions about the split one-week spring-semester vacations.

Nevertheless, many teachers will tell you such vacations are worth rethinking.

¯ First, the February vacation falls a few weeks after secondary-level – that is, seventh to 12th grade – pupils tend to have completed fall-semester exams and begun classes again.

As a one- or two-week vacation approaches, it can be hard to keep pupils’ attention. Then, firing up pupils after they’ve been away from classes for a week or more takes more than a day or two.

So shortly after teachers fire up pupils after fall-semester exams, they’re looking ahead to a week off in February. Afterward, teachers have to fire them up all over again.

Then comes a one-week Easter vacation, and the process repeats itself.

Having a single two-week vacation during the spring semester eliminates one of these time-consuming, education-diminishing cycles.

¯ Second, as a whole, pupils’ attention spans aren’t what they used to be. That tends to exacerbate the diminishment in pupils’ focus as vacations approach. It also makes it harder to fire up pupils after vacations.

The reasons for the shortening of attention spans can vary among pupils. One reason may the breakdown of some nuclear families. Another reason may be that pupils don’t read enough outside of school. Another reason may be that they watch too much television. A more recent reason may be the effect of electronic devices of all sorts. Reasons abound.

Whatever the reasons, pupils’ attention spans aren’t what they used to be. This affects schools in many ways, including in the times around vacations.

¯ Third, for those families that tend to travel during a spring-semester vacation, one week is hardly enough, especially if they’re driving a long distance. For some families, flying presents a financial challenge.

Just try booking airline tickets around Easter and see what they cost, especially if you don’t book them early.

Local school districts understandably establish their calendars in sync with the calendar for their local Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES. This allows each such district to have its BOCES and non-BOCES pupils in school on the same days.

Yet whatever the source of the split one-week spring-semester vacations, they may be worth rethinking.

Randy Elf once taught middle- and high-school pupils at Southwestern Central School.



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