MCPS, give students, staff a break

Observer Opinion

Once again, the MCPS school board is altering the school year schedule. For the 2018-19 year, election day and Jewish holidays cut into the schedule. In response, there were five schedule proposals created. The chosen model only has two professional days and shortens spring break to a mere four days and a weekend.

These schedule restrictions, omitting days from spring break and only allotting two professional days, will hurt MCPS staff and students.

Since Jewish holidays—Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—are on school days next year, it is crucial to give these days off for students since many MCPS students celebrate these holidays. And, it is equally as important to give teachers the days they need to work.

According to Sherwood HS senior and student member of the board (SMOB) Matthew Post, the school board sees it as shameful that governor Larry Hogan forced them to choose between taking away teacher prep time, spring break days and Jewish holidays.

Cutting off professional days to only two is plain unfair. While there was only one professional day in the 2017-2018 school year schedule, in past years teachers were given up to four days off. By discarding professional days, the time that teachers can spend preparing material and grading is limited. Additionally, students do not get the break they deserve after each quarter’s end.

Taking days off of spring break is unacceptable. Spring break has already been shortened in recent years, amounting to less days than winter break, and students cannot afford to lose more days.

A break from school is vital for managing mental health and stress levels. Spring break is perfectly placed at the end of the third quarter so that students can relax before the last quarter of the school year.

According to a Feb. 2014 survey from USA Today, almost half of teenagers feel irritable, depressed and overwhelmed due to stress.

It is vital that MCPS works to reduce the number of stressed teenagers, as it results in serious side effects. A disregard for it is dangerous for both students and teachers.

Not only is break an important time to relax and spend time with family, but it is also right before AP and subject tests. Spring break serves as necessary time for many students to study and prepare for upcoming exams.

In 2016, at CHS the total number of students that enrolled in an AP class and took the exam was 1,253; since a such a large number of students take an AP exam in May each year, it is only fair they are given the full ten days of spring break to they can review for the test.

Spring break is also a perfect time to visit colleges. Many parents work full time, so not all students can take advantage of the five excused absences they are given to visit schools during the school year. Students need a break that is long enough to explore college options. This time should not be restricted to less than a week.

According to Ivywise, a counseling website for high school students, students should not miss school to tour colleges since grades are the priority, but instead, should visit during spring break. This way, without missing important schoolwork, students will get a feel of the campus atmosphere and community of the school, since college students are often still on campus during high school spring break.

Even though this new schedule will force the community to give something important up, it is understandable that shortening spring break may seem unavoidable. Other neighboring counties have not had as lengthy spring breaks as MCPS for years, so shortening it would likely give staff and students the same amount of days off that other counties have. And yes, the MCPS school board has no choice but to restrict the schedule this coming school year because of inevitable days off, like the congressional election day.

However, the calendar modifications take away days that students and staff need during the school year. By taking away part of spring break and only issuing two professional days, the MCPS school board is solving one problem by creating another.

It is imperative that MCPS creates a comprehensive schedule that allows students and teachers time to de-stress, prepare and focus on other responsibilities. Simply put, this new schedule is not conducive to the needs of the county, and an alternative schedule should be considered.