AUGUSTA — Students at the Augusta Public Schools will have an adjusted winter break after the Board of Education voted to begin winter vacation Dec. 22.

The original recommendation came from Superintendent Jim Anastasio in his superintendent’s report at Wednesday night’s board meeting as a way to give teachers an extra day off. But student representative Kristen Merrill reminded him, and the board, of the students’ voice in the matter.

At first, Anastasio recommended the board alter the winter vacation to include a half day off Tuesday, Dec. 21, and full day off Wednesday, Dec. 22. He said other districts in the area have made winter break longer as a way to give teachers, staff members and students more time off to “reset,” but adding days to winter break results in more classroom days that need be added at the end of the school year.

“I wanted to remind you that last year, we had the discretion to reduce the amount of days to go to school and not have to make them up, but that’s not the case anymore,” Anastasio said. “We have to have 175 student days.”

He said time off at the beginning of vacation week, instead of the end, would be more beneficial to teachers.

“Teachers work really hard. The stress is really high,” Anastasio said. “I don’t want to use the term ‘burnout,’ because I don’t think people burn out. I think they get to the edge, but (they) want to be here and do a good job.”

Speaking on behalf of the city’s students, Merrill said having a half day Dec. 21 would disrupt teachers’ schedules. Instead, Merrill suggested the board go with only Dec. 22 as a day off, which the ultimately supported.

“An extended vacation sounds great to some students, and I’m sure there won’t be any complaints, but also, for honors and AP students, I know in some of my classes, teachers are planning to use those days and plan certain materials for the week,” Merrill said. “I wonder if teachers would resort to more homework or how it would throw off the curriculum.”

After hearing Merrill’s suggestion, members of the Board of Education said they appreciated her feedback and credited her with giving them good information.

Board member Staci Fortunato said the suggestion made her realize the break is “only two weeks away” and “maybe the full day is better than a half day.”

Kimberly Martin, another board member, said she did not want to minimize her support for the teachers by not going with the original day-and-a-half motion, as recommended by Anastasio, but called Merrill’s idea a good compromise that would still give “time to decompress before the holiday.”

Winter break for Augusta students is to run from Dec. 22 to Jan. 3, 2022.

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