We need to talk, let’s take a break

District considers changing the break schedule

February 15, 2017

As high school students, we’re expected to perform a continuous, near-impossible balancing act. In addition to roughly 35 hours of school every week, we have to make time for homework, friends, family and numerous extracurricular commitments.

Breaks from school are a rare source of relief from these hectic schedules. No nightly homework assignments and no alarm clocks ringing before dawn is a welcome change from the stress of a normal week at school.

But beginning next year, state law has increased the minimum number of hours that Michigan students must spend in the classroom. Thus, there is a possibility of the district adjusting or removing breaks from the calendar next year.

According to Moussa Hamka, South’s principal, the calendar for the 2017-2018 school year has yet to be agreed upon by administrators, and the central office is discussing possible options with parents, members of the community and the teacher’s union. There are several options: beginning school a week earlier in August, adjusting the lengths of any of our breaks, removing a break or extending the school year a week further into June.

As far as students are concerned, adjusting breaks or extending the school year further into summer vacation is inconvenient and illogical. Adjusting the length or amount of breaks would cut back on students’ down time free of school, and extending the school year has the potential to cause multiple problems for students. Firstly, this would force the 60 percent of our student body that is enrolled in an AP course to attend their class daily for nearly a month and a half past their exam dates. Additionally, this could interfere with students’ summer jobs, summer camps and or workshops, as well as family vacations.

That leaves what we believe to be the most favorable option: beginning school in August. While starting school before Labor Day could potentially result in a penalty for the district (because of a 2006 law prohibiting August start dates for Michigan schools), the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Because we would start a week earlier, midterms would fall the week before our break in December. This way, students wouldn’t need to be concerned about exams during the holidays.

“When I was a student in high school, we did not have the requirement to start after labor day. So we started end of August,” Hamka said. “Then we came back from New Year, (there was a) new semester, and went on. It was a lot cleaner.”

AP teachers would also be aided by an earlier start to the year. This would give them an additional week to instruct students prior to the exam in May. According to Hamka, Michigan students are at a disadvantage when it comes to AP courses. Because many schools across the nation begin in the middle of August, Grosse Pointe students are, at times, two or three weeks behind in the same curriculum as students in other parts of the country.

James Adams, AP Biology teacher, said that more time for curriculum would be better. Most schools double the amount of time that students spend in AP Biology; students are instructed for two class periods instead of one.

“More days before the AP test is a good thing. I think every AP teacher would say that, for the most part,” Adams said. “So adding days, for me the biggest thing would be don’t add them in June. That doesn’t help AP at all.”

According to a Tower Twitter poll, out of 62 votes, 54 percent like the current setup of the school calendar, indicating that optimally the district calendar should undergo as few changes as possible. Starting school a week earlier was the second most popular choice, with 24 percent of the votes.

Starting school before Labor Day, despite a few drawbacks, would aid AP students and teachers, as well as being less likely to inconvenience and possibly infringe upon summer activities and commitments.

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