Upcoming 5-day break less than 2 weeks after winter break riles some Charleston County parents

  • Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 9:00 p.m.
Charleston County students will get a five-day break with teacher work days, the weekend and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday. Buy this photo

Charleston County students might be looking forward to a five-day break starting Thursday, but the same can’t be said of some of their parents.

Some feel aggravated with the timing of the days off, which come less than two weeks after students had a 17-day winter vacation. For some, it’s a scramble and stress to make child care arrangements. Others worry about the schedule disruption to their children, who just were getting back into their school routine.

“If you have kids 6 and under ... it throws them off,” said Geoff Richardson, a parent of a West Ashley kindergartner and second-grader. “(This) is probably doing worse harm to their education than anything. It’s unfortunate, and ... I’m sure there is no perfect world. It doesn’t make it any easier for all the parents out there.”

The five-day break includes a teacher work day, a school-based teacher training day, and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, as well as a regular two-day weekend. District officials said they understood parents’ concerns, but the school calendar was approved in February 2013, and parents, teachers and area residents had input in its design.

Neither Berkeley nor Dorchester 2 school students will have a five-day break, but both districts will have a three-day weekend.

In Charleston, one of the upcoming five days off for students coincides with the end of the first semester, which is Wednesday and the mid-point of the school year. Teachers need time to close out their courses, report grades and hold parent-teacher conferences, so this gives them time to do that work, said Lisa Herring, the district’s chief academic officer.

Teachers said they need and appreciate that work day.

“As a teacher, those are the days you can actually get things done,” wrote Jessica Dowdy Aydlette in response to a newspaper Facebook post that garnered more than 70 comments. “You have people on here saying they can’t get anything done because their kids are home. Try getting stuff done when you have 30 students in your room. I love my job but believe you me, teacher workdays help out a lot!”

Some parents wondered why the end of the first semester couldn’t happen before winter break, and that goes back to the South Carolina law that prohibits schools from starting before the third Monday in August. With later start dates, it would be almost impossible for schools to wrap up the first semester before winter break.

Another one of the five days is a school-based professional development day, and it marks the last training day for teachers before the semester ramps up with testing. Although one of the proposed 2013-14 calendars had this teacher training day scheduled for the fall, this version of the calendar was the preferred choice, Herring said.

“They don’t get many days, and they need a day in the middle of the year,” Herring said. “For them, that was an ideal time.”

District officials are in the midst of developing the 2014-15 school year calendar, and that will go to the board for consideration at its second meeting in February. The district again will solicit feedback, and officials soon will be asking for input.

“We will definitely take it into consideration when looking at next year’s calendar,” Herring said.

Many parents were critical of the five-day break in this year’s academic calendar.

“However, out of all the breaks, this weekend is by far the worst planned,” wrote Caroline L. Brown in a Facebook post. “The students just came back from winter break less than 10 days ago and now they are on break again. It does not help with being consistent and helping them get back on a regular schedule with school, work, etc.”

Still, others weren’t bothered by it.

“The calendar comes out at the beginning of the school year!” wrote Jamie Schwacke McIntosh on Facebook. “Prepare for it! Schools are not babysitters!”

“I am a stay at home mom. So I love and welcome any vacation,” wrote Angie Arivette Saunders on Facebook. “I love spending time with my family and kids.”

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.

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