How Important Is That Week Off in February?

by | Apr 8, 2015

Parent Bob Brooks urges the School Committee to retain the weeklong February break.

Parent Bob Brooks urges the School Committee to retain the weeklong February break.

The School Committee reviewed recommendations for the 2015-16 school year and a report compiled by the ad hoc Academic Calendar Committee at their meeting Tuesday. No decisions were made but comments from audience members made it clear not everyone is ready to trade the weeklong February break for a four-day weekend and the promise of a longer summer break.

Every spring, the School Committee must approve a calendar for the following school year. This year, the committee formed an ad hoc panel to look at everything from when the school year should start and end to how the district compares with other Rhode Island and Northeastern school districts in terms of holidays and vacations.

The result was a report that can be found here, and which included a proposed 2015-16 calendar with these highlights:

  • First day of school: Aug 31
  • No school Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, for parent-teacher conferences
  • Four-day weekend February 13-16, including Presidents Day
  • Four-day weekend March 24-27, including Good Friday
  • Weeklong vacation April 18-22 (aligned with Massachusetts)
  • Target last day of school (barring weather cancellations) would be June 13, 2016

At the meeting Tuesday, School Committee Vice Chair Deidre Gifford asked if East Greenwich had to take off Columbus Day, Oct. 15 this year. Chairwoman Carolyn Mark said all the non-religious holidays (except Christmas) were state-mandated school holidays, but that the ad hoc panel had found a lot of variation (usually fewer mandated holidays) around the country.

While the idea of a one-week vacation in March was appealing to people in the survey, one issue is that PARCC testing takes place in March, at least in Rhode Island. The PARCC is meant to be taken after a requisite number of school days, so the actual implementation depends on when a district began the school year and how many days off take place.

As for scrapping the weeklong February break, several in attendance Tuesday expressed reservations.

School Committeewoman Mary Ellen Winters said she suspected there were families who’d already planned a February 2016 vacation.

“There will be parents who take their kids out,” she said.

Teacher Chris Boie, a member of the ad hoc committee, noted that the majority of teachers who responded to the calendar survey were against changing the calendar. He asked if the February break was switched to a four-day weekend, the School Committee take a stand that teachers would not need to give extra help to students whose parents pull them out for a full week in February.

EGHS senior Zoe Hinman and sophomore Kate DePetro both said they liked the February break, noting it was a chance to catch up on sleep and generally hit the reset button.

For parent Tricia Colgan, long weekends are not the same as week-long breaks.

“After the December break, the kids will go to school for 16 weeks without five days off,” she said. “Sixteen weeks is an awful long time.”

“This calendar for next year is actually kind of a work in progress,” said parent and ad hoc committee member Joy Weisbord of the proposal, in particular the January to April block. “We’d like to start the dialogue with other communities to move [the spring vacation] closer to March.”

The School Committee will take up the calendar discussion at its next meeting April 28, with a possible vote on the 2015-16 calendar.

You can read more about the calendar issue here. And you’ll find the ad hoc committee’s report here.

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Heather Larkin
Heather Larkin
April 9, 2015 5:36 am

The proposed calendar has the first day of school for teachers as 8/27 and the students 8/31.

April 9, 2015 3:38 pm

No change to the calendar please.

April 10, 2015 11:21 am

Most of the rest of the country figured out eons ago how to function with one week-long break in March. Surely there is some kind of adjustment that can be made with regard to the PARCC.


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