Schools To Get Two-Week Breaks

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Two-week-long fall and spring breaks have quietly returned to the Payson Unified School District, the little-discussed measure contrasting heavily to the controversy caused by previous calendar changes.

The board approved, on Thursday, a 2009-10 school calendar that starts July 22 to allow for an extra week. This year, school broke for one week in the fall, but the schedule calls for a two-week break this spring because of construction, school officials said Monday.

Parents and school staff heavily favored the change, according to survey results also released Monday.

“I think the data is pretty compelling at this point,” said Superintendent Casey O’Brien.

The school board initially approved a two-week break calendar for the 2002-03 school year, and filled the recesses with academic enrichment and intervention programs.

The high school offered Japanese classes, and elementary schools scheduled reading and math remediation, according to a district statement from the time.

O’Brien said several problems emanated from the elongated calendar type. First, the district found it difficult to recruit teachers to work during the breaks. Second, the early start date made ordering supplies and other district office tasks difficult.

In 2006, the board abandoned the two-week break schedule in favor of one week.

Teachers have always favored the two-week break schedule, and O’Brien partly attributed the post-decision anger to the board’s overruling of teacher sentiment. Also, some parents reportedly felt their opinions had not been sought.

O’Brien said, “The employees voiced very strong support, and the board made a decision contrary to what the employees wanted. Any time that happens, (it) will be controversial.”

This year’s survey showed 78 percent of district employees favor the two-week break schedule, compared to 43 percent of parents. However, 28 percent of parents reported no preference.

This year’s decision for now affects solely the next school year, but it will likely continue for the year after that as well.

The board on Thursday tabled a 2010-11 calendar with two-week breaks because it wasn’t sure of standardized test dates.

Whether the district will again offer academic programs during the break has not yet been determined.

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