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After backlash, city extends winter recess to include December 23

September 24, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
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The holidays have come early for teachers and parents in the public school system.

The Department of Education has announced that it will extend winter recess for the 2019-2020 school year to include Monday, Dec. 23 — the sole school day before a one-week vacation that had thousands of people up in arms.

An online petition launched in May by Movement of Rank and File Educators (the social justice caucus of the United Federation of Teachers) charged that the last four times Dec. 23 fell on a Monday, there was no school. But this year, winter recess was scheduled to start on Tuesday, Dec. 24, with classes to resume the following Thursday, Jan. 2.

Parents and teachers argued that the one-day week would be counter-productive for both students and staff.

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“It’s hard around the holidays to create consistency — especially when there’s a one-day week,” Rosie Frascella, the MORE member who started the petition, told the Brooklyn Eagle in August.  “Students are not going to be able to focus on school, and it’s not like we’re going to be able to start a new lesson or concept — especially when it’s a Monday.”

“Every year, we work towards a calendar that meets the needs of students and families, and in response to feedback, we have adjusted the calendar and will close school on December 23,” DOE Spokesperson Miranda Barbot told the Eagle. “We are communicating with students, staff and families in order to give them time to appropriately plan for this schedule change.”

Frascella, an English teacher at International High School in Prospect Heights, commended the DOE’s change of heart. “I was very proud to hear about the DOE’s decision,” she said.

“It’s important for the leadership of our school system to listen to the needs and desires of parents, students, and their employees. I hope in the future we can involve all stakeholders in the decisions that affect our children’s educational experiences, especially from the beginning.”

School districts will lose part of their federal funding for each day they are short of 180 instructional days. According to Barbot, the DOE previously had 181 student attendance days scheduled for the 2019-20 school year. With the change, it will have 180 days scheduled.

MORE’s petition — still climbing, despite the news — had nearly 33,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

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