It’s unfortunate the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board and the school district’s superintendent seem to have unplugged the lines of communication regarding the ongoing spring-break controversy.
On Jan. 23, the board voted 4-2 to discontinue week-long spring break for the 2012-13 school calendar year and, instead, place on the calendar five days-off here and there, creating – in effect – three-day weekends and in one case a four-day weekend.
Arguments can be made for both the one-week break and scattered days-off breaks. The school board and superintendent have said the question had been studied for months, with opportunity for input from the parent-teacher organizations.
We have no doubt the majority of the board had some good reasons for its decision, including the argument for educational continuity, although it should be remembered two board members voted against ending week-long spring break.
The decision unleashed a torrent of displeasure from hundreds of parents and students, who have been signing petitions, selling T-shirts, holding meetings, making phone calls and communicating via Facebook to express their opposition.
Some of these people are adamantly opposed to ending week-long spring break, period. Others, however, are willing to live with the board’s decision, except they want to know in more detail how and why the board came to its conclusion.
So far, those questioning the decision say they feel as if they have been ignored and shunted aside by the board and the superintendent – their questions remaining unanswered. They also strongly believe there should have been a community survey on spring-break options.
While it’s true no elected board likes to be micro-managed, in this case communication with school district residents should have been of the utmost importance. That is because the week-long spring break has so long been an annual tradition that most parents and students were quite taken aback when the decision was announced. They claim they were not consulted at all before the decision was made. At least six parents filled out the proper forms to have the issue placed on the agenda at the Feb. 27 school-board meeting, but their request was declined by the board.
These upset parents and students are not a bunch of rabble-rousers; they deserve to be heard. They are long-time school supporters, and some of them worked very hard – through excellent communication with the school board and administration, by the way – to pass the last school referendum. Some of them have remarked on the irony of how that “excellent communication” suddenly turned into a “stone wall” during this spring-break controversy.
It doesn’t take long to sour communicationbetween schools and communities – communication that is the foundation of a superb school system, like Sartell’s. All it takes is a situation like this, when good people with good questions feel as if they are met with deaf ears and closed minds.
Solving this communication break-down would not be difficult. The school board should announce a public meeting centered solely on the spring-break issue. There, they could listen to opponents’ concerns, and they would have a chance to explain – in detail – how they arrived at their decision. They should do it soon.