Point/Counterpoint: Should MCPS extend Winter break?


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Winter brings snowfall, cheer and, of course, winter break. The potential extension of winter break was a big topic among administrators this past year.

Point: Jose Tovar

The MCPS school year lasts from September to June and spans nearly 10 months. The ability for students to learn and prepare for future academic programs is expanded with more time in the classroom. The long school year comfortably meets the state requirement of 180 days of instruction, which allows the school district to have a number of professional days and a few breaks throughout the year.

While the current school year schedule is dangerously close to not meeting the 180-day threshold and may be even more at risk with potential snow days, expanding the winter break by just a few days and potentially adding those on to the end of the year in June would probably be better for students.

Most exams and important units are wrapped up by the beginning of June, so if everything is delayed by a week to give students time to rest during the winter break, there would still be more than enough time to properly finish the school year by the middle of June as usually occurs.
The timing of the break also allows students to regroup and rest nearly halfway through the year which can allow them to prepare for the long weeks before spring break and the exam season. Considering that it would only be two weeks of school missed, it is unlikely that the length of the break would negatively impact the student’s academic performance. If anything, it is likely that the break would boost the students’ academic performance as they would return to school fresh off a two-week break and ready to tackle the remainder of the school year.

The most anticipated and important of these breaks is undoubtedly the 10-day winter break from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2. The break includes holidays like Christmas, New Years, Kwanzaa and the final days of Hanukkah. This break allows students of all backgrounds and cultures to enjoy time with family to celebrate different holidays and enjoy a short break from school.

While the break does take place in the middle of the second marking period, many students may feel the benefit from the break and may return with more energy to finish off the first semester of school. Winter break is not that long in comparison to Thanksgiving break and spring break, especially considering the amount of religious and cultural holidays that occur over its time frame. Extending it by simply four days would allow students to celebrate the end of many holiday festivities with more time to rest before returning to school.

Counterpoint: Blake Bailey

The importance of periodic breaks in the school year can not be overstated, giving students and faculty time to unwind promotes mental well-being. However, said breaks need limitations. Stretching from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, the 10-day winter break is already testing the acceptable boundaries of aperture and any further extension would produce regrettable results.

Students tend to ease their feet off the gas as they dive into the fun-filled holiday season. Frank Milner, president of the acclaimed online tutoring service Tutor Doctor, refers to this crucial period as “the winter slide”. For MCPS, the timing of this slide could not be worse with the end of the second grading period and the first semester just around the corner.

“I think a break is always necessary, everyone needs it for their mental health, but I do think it should be capped at a week or, at max, 10 days, which is what our current winter break is… Students tend to lose motivation after being away from work for so long and they lose the routine… when you have an overly-long break, it’s just harder to get back in that groove,” Child Development teacher Hyun Yoo said.

While students should enjoy the time off, the 10 days of holiday celebrations and gatherings form a disconnect in memory retention and assigned student workload. For the impoverished, this disconnect could be exponentiated due to a lack of home support and school resources. Not to mention that more than the 300,000 Maryland students who rely on school-sanctioned meals go without school food for weeks.

The state of Maryland requires districts to provide at least 180 days of instruction, and in a county that cancels days at the lightest drop of ice or snow, it’s important to attend school when the weather permits. With the emergency closure on Nov. 28, MCPS is currently on track for 181 days of instruction. While expanding on the already generous 10 days off sounds good in theory, in practice, it could ultimately hurt grades, inhibit student access to food and decreases the length of other hiatus’, such as spring break or summer vacation.