AHS’ School Committee has deferred the unresolved discussion concerning a new vacation schedule until next year. However, the possibility of an alteration still remains extremely plausible.
The proposed change consists of replacing the current February and April breaks with a single week of vacation in March. The idea was first proposed in 2013, following a large amount of snow days that exceeded the maximum prediction. This resulted in make-up days having to be completed not only in late June, but also on Good Friday for the entire district and a Saturday for AHS. However, it has been confirmed that this change will not be implemented for the 2015-2016 school year.
Although the current vacation schedule is certainly sufficient, the proposed plan offers benefits we currently lack. One aspect of the proposed schedule is extremely relevant after the recent abundance of snow days. According to Joel Blumstein, a member of the School Committee and the calendar subcommittee, “Many believe that a week vacation in February, coming so soon after the holiday break in December and a long weekend for MLK Day in January, is too disruptive of the learning process.” After adding snow days into the mix, students and teachers alike find it difficult to fall into a routine.
Another advantage of having March break is that it will align AHS with many other schools – including most private schools in Andover – that already have this schedule in place. Since many parents have kids enrolled at both private and public schools, a March vacation would be significantly more convenient for them. Also, considering that other schools have seen success with the March vacation schedule, Andover residents can be reassured that if implemented, the new vacation will not be crucially detrimental. Schools such as Pike, a private school in Andover, has had this policy in place for many years. Pike has demonstrated that this vacation allows schools to end earlier and that students and faculty can function with the single week of vacation.
Unfortunately, with this benefit there also comes a complication; many other public schools in the Merrimack Valley currently have February and April break. If only AHS was to alter the vacation schedule without the same being done by other schools, sports competitions, school vacation camps and programs, and childcare services in the region would face major complications. Annie Gilbert, a member of the School committee says, “We are in the process now of reaching out to other districts in the Merrimack Valley in order to gauge their level of interest in switching to a single March vacation.” Whether or not other schools plan on changing their vacation schedules as well is currently unclear.
According to Jason Grosz, the student representative on the School Committee, the primary reason the discussion on the March vacation has been delayed is conflicts with standardized testing. Grosz also stated that PARCC testing, a possible MCAS replacement, which is strongly supported by Governor Baker, may conflict with the March break. Hence, the School Committee only wants to make the final decision once the standardized testing schedule is confirmed.
Despite many details remaining unclear, this schedule debate will once again be actively discussed by the School Committee when the 2016-2017 calendar begins to be decided.
By Laura O’Brien