Moms Talk: Do You Agree With a Shorter Feb. Vacation?
Bernards Township next year will join other county schools, including Somerset Hills, in having only one week off after New Year's.
Editor's Note: It's difficult to write this column without noting the sudden passing of William Zimmermann, who soon would have turned 20, in a March 7 car accident while on spring break in Mexico. For the many residents with children who may know members of Billy's family in Bernards Township schools, the tragedy seems just a little bit closer to home.
For those of us who moved into Bernards Township part-way through our children's school careers, the extra weeklong February vacation may have been a bit of a mixed blessing.
Sure, the kids loved having that extra week's holiday in February, and then yet another week off in April.
But the school year always ended pretty late in Bernards Township — it's June 26 for this year. It would have been the equally late end date set in 2013-14 before next year's calendar was revised at the beginning of March by the Board of Education.
So, now the new last day of school for next year is June 20, 2014. The trade-off is that February vacation has been shortened to Feb. 17-18 for next year, and the Martin Luther King holiday again has been eliminated.
That last day of school IS more reasonable, especially for older students who may be heading off to summer activities, or even attending college orientations.
Still, that February vacation — "ski week" as some have called it — has always been pretty popular in Bernards Township.
And some parents and students weren't too anxious to give it up.
At the March 5 school board meeting, parent Laura Begg, while thanking the staff for the undertaking to review the district calendar, noted that students had supported keeping the full February break in the survey. "As students get older, they need to visit colleges," she said.
In a survey issued earlier this year to parents, staff and Ridge High School juniors and seniors, 65.8 percent of those upperclass students who responded said they would like to see school end seven to 10 days earlier. However, at the same time 45 percent said they would like to keep the full two weeks off in 2014, while taking away some individual holidays, Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian reported.
In the survey, an overwhelming majority of parents said they wanted to see the school year end earlier than had been scheduled.
Begg, who said she was speaking on behalf of several parents, told the school board that February break is valuable "family time" for many students. She said the April break would be scheduled during a time when spring sports are underway, making it difficult for parents and students to get away together.
Although that reason may not have seemed as compelling on March 4, does it hit home with a little more sharpness this week, after seeing how short our time with our children may be? Did other parents (as did this one) see the photos of William Zimmerman on family trips, which were displayed at St. James Church earlier this week at his funeral Mass, and think that such time spent is very important, too?
What do you think of the shorter February vacation?
Another suggestion was made on Feb. 4 that the number of days off be shortened to a three-day week, instead of two. Do you think that is enough time to get away for college visits or family trips?
Is it worth getting out of school a little earlier, and giving up some of those days off during the school year?
In the Somerset Hills school district, the last day of school this year is June 20, 2013. The district had been scheduled to have two days off for a long Presidents Day weekend, but those days were put back on the calendar to help make up for time lost to Superstorm Sandy last fall.
A parent at the Bernards Board of Education meeting on March 4 said that some in that school system say that going without a break for more than two months has been very hard. Still, the Somerset Hills district stuck to its schedule — and will let students out of school six days earlier in June than in Bernards Township schools.
Next February's vacation in Somerset Hills schools is the Friday and Monday, Feb. 14 and 17, surrounding Presidents Day. The last scheduled day of school is June 19, 2014.
And what about the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. It was pointed out that the January holiday is a national one, and parents may have the day off from work.
I admit we were taken a little aback when we moved from New York State, and found the holiday was not on the Bernards Township school calendar. But might students actually learn more about King if there are educational programs or in-service activities during a school day on the national holiday?
Do you think the activities planned during previous years when King's birthday commemoration was spent in school were adequate? Would you add anything?
Let us know what you think of the idea of having one week's vacation after New Year's, instead of two. Will it make your life easier, or make it harder?