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The student news site of Linganore High School

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Should schools extend or shorten their breaks?

Gathering during the breaks can bring happiness. (Courtesy of Sarah Vendemia,Rosa Munoz, and Taylor Wilson)

This year, the University of Maryland in College Park (UMD) agreed to extend their Thanksgiving break, an increase from three days in the previous school year. Last month, they made the choice to lengthen the break to an entire week to help benefit the faculty and students’ overall mental wellbeing.

According to CBS, the university president told students to use the break to “rest and recharge.”

Some schools are weighing the pros and cons of extending breaks. Many overlook Thanksgiving and direct their focus to the winter holiday break. Spanning from four to seven school days, Winter Break brings students and staff something to look forward to and creates opportunities to participate in other non-school related activities.

Some students use this opportunity to earn more money for themselves or their families.

Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) currently plans for approximately 11 days for a winter break, five to six school days for spring break and approximately 75 days for summer break.

Linganore High School (LHS) junior Will Berry says, “A longer break would open up more time for the people who work to make more money.”

Linganore staff such as math teacher Jennifer Weiss look forward to the break as much as students.

“It [the Winter Break] would give all the teachers time to take a break,” Weiss said.

“It [the Winter Break] would give all the teachers time to take a break,” Weiss said. “

We give our all the rest of the year, so a break can let us finally relax.”

— Jennifer Weiss

The Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) Winter Break for the 2023-2024 school year was six school days long and ten days in total. Some wish it was longer.

“A longer break would give me less stress,” Linganore High School freshman Eleanor Van Slyke said. “It would give us all time to recover and clear our minds.”

Some schools in Maryland already have longer breaks built into their school calendar. At Great Mills High School (GMHS), which utilizes a year-long school calendar, Winter Break is 18 days long, compared to FCPS’ 11-day break.

Frederick County, however, uses a semester schedule that limits the length of their breaks.

While the idea of longer breaks may be appealing, GMHS parent Shari Conrad, parent of junior Kaitlyn Conrad, has mixed views.

“The year-long schooling [break schedule] has had a bad impact on Kaitlyn,” Conrad said. “It causes Kaitlyn to miss a lot of school [days].”

There are over 3,181 year-round schools in the United States and many schools that use the annual school system incorporate a number of breaks. However, the majority of schools no longer use the annual school system but instead use semester-based school calendar which consists of two semesters (fall and spring).

Even though schools on a year-round schedule have longer breaks, students attend more days in a row without having a day off.

Conrad is unsure whether she thinks extended breaks help maintain student and staff mental health.

As Conrad explained, GMHS students have at least three hours of homework nightly, but many have to catch up on work during break due to lack of time in school.

In contrast, on December 20, 2023, FCPS Superintendent Cheryl Dyson released a request for staff to take a “true pause” over the Winter Break.

She encouraged staff to “please remember the careful consideration required when assigning work to our students. In the spirit of our whole child approach, embrace the power of the pause, and allow students to focus on their families and being well.”

While there are different models for school systems to use, there are multiple considerations when planning school breaks. Student and staff mental health may be one consideration, but potential learning loss, particularly over the summer, is another.

Certain school districts have even shortened their holiday breaks in hopes of lessening learning loss and helping students remember more information learned in prior days.

Typically, the average student forgets over half of the information they learned or were taught within the first 24 hours. After having a break from school for over a week, students may not recall skills and content as well.

Although Maryland law requires the school year to include 180 days, school systems can work within this expectation to determine if longer breaks would benefit their communities.

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