Friday, 23 March 2012

Breaking Free - Spring Vacation and Schools

Spring Break has finally arrived in the North Peace! This year more than most, the break is certainly welcome. Aside from the current labor situation, the holiday comes late this year, falling in the fourth week of March and first week of April in order to better connect with the Easter holiday. It's been a long slog since Christmas and I'm certain everyone is looking forward to some time off.

The origins of spring break lie in agrarian and religious seasonal observances. It might interest some to know that the original spring break from instruction was not really a break from work at all. Students were released for a period to assist with spring work on the family farm and to attend Easter services, while teachers took advantage of their absence to scrub out a winter's worth of grime from the community school house.

The present spring break seems to have more to do with finances and the economy. Spring Break in college circles is synonymous with a wild week at some vacation setting to burn off youthful energy. At the public school level vacation travel also seems to be important. Airlines denote spring break as a "Peak Travel" time and literally millions of dollars are pumped into the economy as both educators and families take some time to recharge before the final spring push towards the end of term.

Extending spring break is now seen in some quarters as a way to save money. Recently the Langley School District examined extending spring break as part of its financial restructuring plan to address its hefty district deficit. Janet Steffenhagen of the Vancouver Sun reported in February that several school districts are now looking at extending holidays as a way to save money.

Alternate schedules have become a hot button topic for those considering educational reform.  Education World recently described several alternative options including year round schooling, later start times for teens, four day weeks and tri-mester plans. The article looks at whether time spent in class is the issue or whether what is done with the time is more important. Admittedly American in its focus, the article none the less provides food for thought for our system as well.

Whether grounded in tradition, based in research or just driven by economic imperative, I know I'm looking forward to the holiday. I'll be taking some time off in order to return to education matters energized and ready to face whatever challenges the rest of the year presents! Here's hoping everyone else gets a good break as well!

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