For months, Winter Break tantalizes the minds of Leesville students like a pie on a windowsill: the sole motivation to slog through the bitter, five-day weeks of autumn.
In recent decades, however, Winter Break’s significance has taken a hit. Students received only 11.5 days off for the holidays in 2012; thanks to calendar logistics, we’ll be blessed with a full 12 days this year. That’s a far cry from the generous 14- to 16-day vacations many of today’s parents enjoyed.
Winter Break is now just long enough to clear students’ minds of recent studies and topics but not quite long enough to provide a complete refresher for the upcoming exam grind.
Meanwhile, minor holidays and random weekends at other times into the year have been transformed into mini-vacations on their own. January’s Martin Luther King Day is now a 4.5-day break, just a few hours shorter than Thanksgiving. November’s Veterans Day has expanded into a 3.5-day weekend.
Such unexpected and unnecessary breaks interrupt the academic routine, knocking students off their usual schedule and splitting apart lessons in individual classes.
Such are the concerns over the current Wake County high school calendar.
At Southeast Raleigh High School, however, a modified schedule — a hybrid between traditional and year-round — has achieved the balance that students have sought for so long.
Leesville should learn from their example.
Southeast gives students a six-week summer through all of June and the first two weeks of July, long enough to provide an adequate transition between grades with time for extended vacations. It’s not quite as lengthy as Leesville’s Summer Break, but the lost weeks are made up for in other ways.
For two weeks between Sept. 21 and Oct. 6, Southeast students receive a Fall Break. For three weeks between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, students enjoy a wholly refreshing Winter Break. For two weeks between Mar. 8 and 23, students savor an extended Spring Break.
In exchange, other weeks are interrupted only by national holidays. Teacher workdays and other unnecessary vacation days are forgone in favor of a rhythmic academic routine. Students are not distracted by unwarranted breaks in their schedule.
To keep focused over month-long periods during the challenging years of high school, students need three or four substantial breaks to catch up on sleep, social life and even homework. Southeast’s hybrid calendar recognizes and addresses this necessity in a way that Leesville and other Wake County public high schools’ calendars don’t.
In the coming years, it’s time to take another look and perhaps another stance on our school calendar. Weighing the importance of both academic rigor and rest, Leesville’s teenagers deserve a more refreshing, pattern-based schedule.