Longer summer vacation not worth losing benefits of weeklong fall break

September 5, 2018

Summer break has once again come to an end, and just like every year, Atlanta Public Schools students have to endure the pain of being in school while their friends and family from outside the district are still enjoying summer.

For a week. Maybe two. Eventually, however, students from other school districts make their way back to school, and the world goes back to normal.

All across America, students are getting acclimated to going back to school. Elementary, middle and high schoolers are looking back woefully on bygone days of wasting time under the summer sun, while looking forward to Thanksgiving break, when they can finally relax after the daunting first few months at school.

But not APS. Atlanta Public Schools offers students a much-needed, earlier break. Instead of going from the freedom and sloth of summer vacation to a 15-week gauntlet of school with no breaks other than Labor Day, APS students only have to go to school for eight full weeks before relaxing over the one-week October Fall Break.

Fall Break is Oct. 6-14, and offers benefits far greater than simply making the beginning of school less daunting. The  break also offers a golden week for older students to have ample time to do work they wouldn’t be able to during the normal school year.

Students with jobs, who can only work on afternoons and weekends, can use the break as an opportunity to work more extended hours. In 2017, the first year that APS had Fall Break, Grady students have used the break to take Driver’s Ed courses, study for standardized tests, finish up Eagle Scout and Gold Award projects, and make final college tours before early application deadlines.

The break’s proximity to college application deadlines is perhaps what makes it most appealing for seniors. Application deadlines are Oct. 15 for the  University of Georgia and Georgia Tech and Nov. 16 for Georgia State University.

Without Fall Break, the nearest multiple-day break before these deadlines is summer vacation. Even with an extra week added to the end of summer, it would be ludicrous to think students would work as diligently on applications in early August as they would in October, less than a month before most early applications are due.

Additionally, the current October break helps balance the days of break and instructional time in the first semester when compared to the second semester. Currently, we are in school for about 63 percent of the total days between the beginning and end of the first semester, compared with 64 percent in the second semester.

With the proposed schedule change, this number for first semester would increase to 67 percent. Ending the break would throw off the balance we have between semesters; not only would there be fewer instructional days during second semester, there would also be 70 percent more break days during the second semester.

Summer vacation is a vital part of the culture of American schools. However, it is critical that we do not let the idea of having one additional week of summer lead us away from an October break, which is a time where students can get paid, get work done, and most importantly, take a rest from a grueling first semester.

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