Schools will continue exploring single spring vacation in March, but not for 2013
The School Department has abandoned pursuit of a possible March vacation to replace traditional winter and spring breaks for next year, but will continue to explore the academic benefits of a revised calendar.
Last month the schools asked for feedback on a 2013 draft calendar that included an eight-day March vacation. The draft had school in session during the traditional vacation weeks of Presidents Day in February; and Patriots Day in April.
Feedback was as divided as it could be. Of the 216 messages received, 182 expressed clear preferences, Superintendent Meredith Nadeau reported at the Feb. 14, 2012 School Board meeting. Of those, 91 favored the traditional schedule and 91 favored the proposed March vacation.
The tie-breaker, however, is Cape Elizabeth's inclusion in the Portland Area Technical High School region. "We have a statutory obligation to have 'not more than 9 dissimilar instructional days' between the calendars of schools in the region," Superintendent Meredith Nadeau said in a memo to the School Board.
Consequently Nadeau will ask the board next month to approve a draft 2013 calendar with the traditional February and April vacations. "But, based on the level of feedback, my feeling is that the March break proposal warrants further investigation," Nadeau said.
Mary Townsend, School Board chairman, said the idea for a single spring vacation is not new, and is practiced in U.S. schools outside the Northeast. Townsend lauded Nadeau's efforts to gather feedback on Cape Elizabeth's adopting the model, and said she was surprised at the support that it did get.
Nadeau, in her first year as superintendent in Cape Elizabeth, said the suggestion to explore a different calendar came from staff members who thought it would result in more uninterrupted instruction time. There had been no formal conversations about a change, Nadeau said, "so it seemed it was an opportune time to bring that forward."
Parents who provided feedback listed various reasons for their preferences. (see memo) School Board members said they would like to continue exploring a March vacation in terms of educational benefits.
Nadeau said she will attend a meeting of the PATHS board this week and plans to share Cape Elizabeth's reaction to a possible March vacation with other member schools. "It's a perennial conversation," Nadeau said. "There may be a possibility that other districts are willing to explore this as well."