Petersburg School Board voted down a proposal to change spring break at their meeting Dec. 8. Most school district staff wanted to spread out the six day break throughout the spring. However, school board members said it was too late to make the change. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:
Petersburg is pretty isolated as the only town on Mitkof Island and so far, there hasn’t been a local outbreak of COVID-19 like in many other communities. School has remained in-person for most of the year. To help keep COVID out of the schools, most district staff stayed home for Thanksgiving. And they plan to do the same thing for the winter break coming up this month.
The school district believes that will likely to be the same come mid-March, when the usual week-long spring break is scheduled. Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter asked the school board to consider spreading the six days of spring break throughout the spring instead.
“You know, what would a week actually look like in the spring knowing that it’s going to be very different potentially from past years?” said Kludt-Painter.
Kludt-Painter brought the proposal to the board after hearing from students, staff, and families interested in the change. Attached to other in service days, it would’ve created some three and four day weekends in February, March, April, and May. Kludt-Painter says it could give local families more opportunities for breaks close to home.
“Maybe it’s a way of spreading out and having just some opportunities to have some shorter kind of breathing opportunities, I guess, for kids and even teachers and maybe families too,” said Kludt-Painter. “Maybe you could get out and do a three-day little weekend adventure somewhere and get a break.”
A survey of district staff indicated that 70 percent supported spreading spring break out.
Elementary School Principal Heather Conn says her staff has had a challenging year for many reasons including not being able to travel during the holidays. She says since travel is not encouraged it means relying on good weather in that one week in mid-March, which is no guarantee.
“Last year during spring break, it rained the whole entire time,” said Conn. “And this year it might rain again. The long weekends kind of span that out.”
She asked the board to consider staff morale when making their decision.
School Board President, Sarah Holmgrain, approved of the proposal. She said she wanted to support staff and said it would work for her family as well.
“The idea of having a break here and there each month sounds pretty appealing right now,” said Holmgrain. “Not only a break for the kids having to wear a mask all day at school but really for some it might even be easier for childcare.”
Board members Katie Holmlund, Megan Litster, and Cheryl File all voiced concern about families with split custody saying they could have problems with their court agreements if spring break changed.
“My concern is for those families and for families that might have already planned travel,” Litster said. “It really complicates things at this point in the year.”
“What are you going to do for these parents that have to send their kids and they can’t because they have to go to school or they have to go to another state and come back?” File said.
“Or now, you’re paying for more travel too,”Holmlund said. “You could potentially have to send them to their other parent every single one of those vacation days.”
Several school board members said that three months was too short of a notice to make a change to the calendar.
The proposal failed on a vote of four to one with Holmgrain the only yes vote.
Kludt-Painter says calendars never please everyone and maybe spring break is a topic that the board can revisit another time.