Students need a break

The WCPSS traditional calendar for the 2016-2017 school year. All of the breaks between February and March were taken away due to weather. Photo Courtesy of schoolcalendars.orgThe WCPSS traditional calendar for the 2016-2017 school year. All of the breaks between February and March were taken away due to weather. Photo Courtesy of schoolcalendars.org

Everyone knows the feeling: second semester is dragging on and spring break seems like it can’t come soon enough. This year, though, that wait seems especially long.

Thanks to snow days and scheduling, Wake County students have been in school for 10 weeks straight without a break. Sure, students have had their weekends but between sports, working, church functions, volunteering, and more, the weekend can hardly be considered a break for most students.

“The weekend isn’t long enough, and there’s other things students need to do on the weekends…this weekend I’m going to the Latin Convention and it’s all day Saturday so I won’t have time to do my  homework or anything like that so I’ll have to spend Sunday catching up on all of my work,” said LeeAnn Lucas, a senior at Leesville.

Going to school for weeks on end without a break may seem like a dream for legislators, but for students it’s just exhausting. The nonstop grind of school can even lead to negative effects on mental health for many students.

“I’m so tired; my mental health is hanging by a thread. I really need a break…it’s actually really affected my work ethic,” said Emily Dusablon, a senior at Leesville.

Not only does the lack of a break affect students, but it also affects teachers. At the end of every quarter teachers are supposed to receive a workday to complete and update grade books and catch up on work. Without a break, they do not have time to do that.

“Having such a long period of school without a break is exhausting.  As teachers, we rely on the occasional teacher workday to help us catch-up and stay ahead of all of the work.  Without those days, it is hard to stay on top of our responsibilities,” said Keysha Mayfield, a math teacher at Leesville, in an email.

Not having any breaks clearly impacts students and teachers negatively, but it doesn’t have to be this way. If Wake County schools started earlier and ended earlier snow days could be added to the end of the year instead of taken away from the the regular year. Another option could be mandatory teacher workdays.

“There should be required teacher workdays that are not taken away for any reason.  I feel that in the past, there was a time when we had a required, protected workday at the end of each quarter that they generally did not mess with.  There should be at least one day per x number of weeks when it is required that if we have not had a day off in so much time prior to that day that the system cannot touch,” said Mayfield.

Despite the problems presented by the current school schedule, Wake County is still hesitant to make any changes. This is largely caused by problems surrounding spring break. In the past, Wake County has chosen to take away days from spring break instead of teacher workdays. This option, while likely more beneficial for students, causes a large amount of backlash among parents. Many families choose to go on vacation during this break and, should students have a makeup day over spring break, they would miss school. While this would certainly inconvenience a few students, the issue of Wake County putting a few students above the whole becomes prevalent.

We are so concerned with protecting spring break that we do not consider the greater repercussions.  As a teacher, I have long known not to make definitive plans for spring break until the time came near, but WCPSS seems to hold saving spring break in higher regard than allowing teachers time to plan and prepare and giving students much needed breaks,” said Mayfield.   

It’s too late for Wake County to change anything this year, but in the future the county needs to consider the health and wellbeing of its students when creating schedules. Students may have a slightly shorter summer or spring break, but it’s important that they are not exhausted during the school year. This way, students can fully accomplish what they are meant to do at school: learn.

 

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