New winter break schedule creates confusion, student discontent


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Red bauble ornaments are very common during the winter break, which starts later this year.

Hot chocolate, twinkling lights and family traditions: this is probably what most people imagine when they think of preparing for the winter holiday season. But for many students, the reality is far different.

Atlanta Public Schools lets out for Winter Break on Friday, Dec. 22, which is only three days before Christmas and a week later than when school has let out in previous years. The month of December will contain final exams, projects and, for many, stress.

“[I don’t like the new schedule] because it’s three days before Christmas, and we barely have time to celebrate,” freshman Lucy Fazenbaker said. “My family [will be] in town, so I would rather be spending time with them than be at school.”

Most students are concerned about the time that the APS schedule allows-or rather does not allow-for them and their families to prepare for and celebrate the holidays.

“There’s nothing I can do about it, but [my] parents like to plan Christmas vacations, so the schedule interferes with that,” senior Cole Cumbest said. “It’s unfair because Christmas is the most important holiday to the majority of kids our age.”

With final exams and the impending end-of-semester stress, students who celebrate Christmas are torn between school work and holiday festivities. Students who observe Christian traditions leading up to Christmas are restricted from participating in those important celebrations by APS’s late winter break release date.

“The Sunday before Christmas, my church choir performs our annual Christmas cantata,” senior Tyler Hunt said. “The choir takes at least a few days out of the week before the cantata to rehearse, but because I’ll be in school and have finals that week, I won’t be able to rehearse and, therefore, not perform. I’m very upset because [this] is my last chance to perform with them.”

Grady is home to a diverse student body ethnically, culturally and religiously. Some of the students who don’t celebrate Christmas do not particularly mind that the new schedule does not allow ample break time before Christmas day.

“I don’t really care that school lets out closer to Christmas, but I can see how it could be frustrating for people who celebrate it,” said senior Eva Arnold, who is Jewish. “But personally, I don’t think that it gives [students] enough time to travel and spend time with their families during the holiday season.”

While Winter Break does not affect their religious celebrations, the lack of breaks for non-Christian holidays like Hanukkah and Eid within the APS calendar does.

“I think there should be more breaks for non-Christian holidays,” Arnold said. “For example, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are important and widely-recognized holidays for Jews, and school should be out for them.”

While most of the APS student body is either Christian or Jewish, there are a significant number of Muslim students who want time off from school for religious holidays.

“There are only two holidays in Islam, one of which always falls during the school year, and there are a lot of Muslims at Grady,” senior Komi Siddiqui said. “Most Muslim students, not just at Grady, miss school in the morning for the Eid al Adha prayer. I know New York City recently recognized Eid as a holiday and lets students take a day off, so I think that’s a good step forward.”