What’s up with Winter Break?

Wake County schools that follow the traditional calendar have two breaks other than summer vacation: winter break and spring break. The calendar is designed by the WCPSS Board of Education.

The school calendar is often a breeding ground for the high schoolers’ complaints, especially when it comes to winter break.

According to Monika Johnson Hostler, the chair of the Wake County Board of Educators, coming up with a calendar for a school year normally takes about three to four months. A committee first holds a meeting to create a draft.

“The committee is made up of teachers, administrators (both school and central based), parents a community members…  [they] meet for three to four hours,” said Hostler, via email.

They then present the said draft with the Board of Education, who usually call for some modifications to the calendar. The BOE will also approve the final draft.

One pattern that is often noticed is the switch between two weeks and one and a half weeks of winter break. This current school year has a one and a half weeks winter break, but the 2015-2016  and the 2014-2015 school years had two weeks off. The three years previous, though, had one and a half weeks for break.

“Each calendar has its own parameters/laws that must be followed. The NC Calendar Law informs the district of laws we must follow when creating the traditional instructional calendar… There does seem to be a pattern, but the traditional instructional calendar is designed to meet the NC Calendar Law,” said Hostler.

The NC Calendar Law Hostler refers to states that the WCPSS 2017-2018 traditional calendar must meet the following requirements (according to official documents):

  1.     Start date can be no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and end date no later than the Friday closest to June 11 (unless a weather related calendar waiver has been approved, year-round school, charter school or cooperative innovative high school.) If waiver is approved the start date can be no earlier than the Monday closest to August 19.
  2.     There are no educational purpose waivers for exemption of the opening and/or closing dates.
  3.     All schools within the district must be closed all day for purposes of determining eligibility for a weather related waiver (delayed starts or early dismissals of two or more hours no longer apply).
  4.     Covers at least nine calendar months.
  5.     Must have a minimum of 185 days OR 1,025 hours of instruction.
  6.     Must have at least ten teacher workdays.
  7.     Local Boards shall designate two (2) workdays on which teachers may take accumulated vacation leave. Local Boards may designate the remaining work days as days teachers may take accumulated vacation leave.
  8.     Have a minimum of 10 annual vacation leave days.
  9.     Have the same or an equivalent number of legal holidays occurring within the school calendar as those designated by the State Personnel Commission for State employees.
  10.   School shall not be held on Sunday.
  11.   Veterans Day shall be a holiday for all public school personnel and for all students enrolled in the public schools.

It’s obvious that a lot of work goes into making the school calendar. However, it’s still not perfect, especially regarding its placement in the school year.

“I want winter break to occur after finals. Over the break, instead of enjoying the time off of school, you are forced to worry about finals and working on assignments when you should be spending time with family over the holidays,” said Hayden Reed, a sophomore at Leesville.

Kayla Pope, a junior at Leesville, has the same thought process. When asked about if she would like a longer winter break, she stated that she wouldn’t because “it’d give more opportunities for me to stress over homework and finals over the semester.”

The calendar hasn’t differed greatly in terms of winter break the past several years. It seems that high school students will remain unsatisfied with the break for many years to come


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