Opinion: School Board Threatens to Shorten Summer Break

Our mental health is degrading. The threat of COVID-19 is a constant specter over our and our families’ lives. The School District of Palm Beach County has proposed that the solution to all of this hardship is a longer school year. 

On Dec. 16, the School Board of Palm Beach County released a proposed calendar that features a summer break shortened by three weeks and a winter break shortened by three days. 

For me (Alessandro), this is a personal issue. Because of the pandemic, I wasn’t able to see my grandfather over winter break, and with the disease continuing to spread, it’s possible I won’t be able to visit him over summer break either. He is 81 years old. With the shortening of winter break, it will be virtually impossible for me to have time to travel out of state and see him next December. Considering all that has happened this year, for the district to limit my time with him over the next winter break is inconsiderate. 

In addition to limiting time with our families, shorter breaks will cause more stress among the students. 

“The weekends have become a time for us to prepare for school on Monday instead of a time of relaxation,” dance freshman Savannah Ehrlich said. “Students are burnt out and we need time [over break] to rejuvenate and do activities beyond school.”

Ehrlich is not alone. An April 2020 survey of 3,239 high school and college students by Active Minds found that one in five students claimed that their mental health has “significantly worsened” during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While District officials have drafted this shorter break due to school having been delayed by three weeks for the 2020-2021 school year, Geometry teacher Shannon Kostecka finds fault with this schedule. 

“With testing still happening in May (and not looking like it will be pushed back into June), three weeks of school in June seems like overkill,” Kostecka said. 

But the decision to shorten our summer and winter break is not set in stone. You have the power to change this. Call the School Board at 561-684-5103 before noon on Wednesday, Jan. 20. The first three minutes of your recorded message will be played at the school board meeting. 

If you prefer not to leave a recorded message, consider emailing the School Board and District Leadership at [email protected].

Here is a sample email or recorded message:

Good Morning / Good Afternoon / Good Evening, 

I am a ( student / parent / teacher ) at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. I believe that students and faculty should be given a ten-week summer break and two-week winter break for the 2021-2022 school year. 

Next write/say why this is important to you. Some sample reasons for why this could be important are as follows: 

  • The pandemic has negatively affected my mental health. I want a chance over the summer to rejuvenate and be ready for the new year. 
  • During (summer break / winter break) I visit my (grandparents / other family). The pandemic made this impossible and I really miss them. I think it is unfair for the school district to deny me the opportunity to see my family. 

Sincerely,

________

If you want to have an even bigger impact on district policy, consider attending the school board meeting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20. The School Board is located at 1601 N. Tamarind Ave, West Palm Beach, FL 33407. Make sure to call the Board Office at 561-434-8136 by noon on Wednesday to sign up to speak at the meeting.