It’s time to end February School Vacation week, for good

I’m not writing this because I don’t think kids in school don’t work hard enough, because teachers have too much time off, or because I have some other ideas about school/teacher/union reform.  I’m writing this because 1) I grew up without a vacation in February and since moving to New England and finding out about it I’ve decided it’s an absurd practice, 2) I work with the public day in and day out and the very worst times of year to deal with people are school vacation weeks, and 3) Climate Change.

If I lost you on that last one, let me go into a little more detail.

I’m going to ignore the people who claim that humans aren’t changing the climate of this planet and that we aren’t warming the globe.  Chances are good that the people who believe that aren’t reading this blog anyway, but Climate Change science is fact and I’m not arguing it here.  What I am arguing is that taking a week off of school in February, after just having had a week to two weeks, depending on when Christmas and the New Year fall, back in December, is insane.  Especially in a winter like this one where we’ve gotten 100 inches of snow in less than 30 days.

I simply do not fundamentally understand the need to stop the flow of learning/preparing for the newest standardized test 6 weeks after the last break.  It seems silly and, increasingly, with the unpredictability of the weather, it’s reckless.  Most of the greater Boston area is already struggling with how to fit in the mandated 180 days of school this year before the drop dead date of June 30th.  Are we taking a week off now so we can send the kids to school on Saturdays?  How about lengthening the school day?  Compared to those options, spending time in school when the temperature is -1 out, without the wind chill, seems like a bargain.

The funny part is, February break is a uniquely New York & New England thing.  I grew up in Pennsylvania and we had a break at Christmas/The New Year and then Spring break which was timed to coincide with Easter/Passover.  We had the occasional 3 day weekend and that was it.  There was no other week off for us.  Those two breaks were hard enough to coordinate with working parents, and this was before helicopter parenting.  This was back when we were allowed to go outside and play with other kids in the neighborhood on our own.  We were allowed to get dirty and climb trees and play in the creek.  Then again, we were all vaccinated, but that’s another post entirely.

School vacation weeks now, all three of them, are about entertaining the kids.  There is no learning involved, no emphasis on keeping what they’ve done since January in their heads.  Especially as two of them fall during increasingly cold parts of the year, malls, museums, toy stores, movie theaters, and other places that rely on families stay open later, have more deals to induce families to come, and generally make it harder on all of us who work there.  Worse, parents have to take a week off of work to spend time with kids that they really don’t want to be around.  You’d be shocked how often we get asked, “Do you have any child care available?”

Newsflash, if you can’t stand to be around your kid that much then you have larger problems than, “Where can I take junior to keep him entertained this week?”

President’s Day is not an acceptable excuse to take a week off from school.   It just isn’t.  The sooner everyone north of I-80 figures that out, the better off we’ll be.  Those of us in the Service Industry who spend this week getting coughed on, yelled at, called names, slimed, screamed at, and working mandatory extra shifts might be able to breathe a little easier.  And, those of us who work in education might have our planning a little less frantic knowing that when that next storm comes (tomorrow) that there’s more flexibility in the schedule.

Do it, people, end February School Vacation week.

~Kelly

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