Medford students will get two weeks off for spring break again next school year, and a district survey says parents and teachers approve.
Of 435 parents, guardians and community members who responded to the survey, 70.3 percent said they liked doubling the time off in March, while 22.2 percent preferred the traditional one week and 7.5 percent had no opinion.
Most of the parents who completed the survey and supported the longer break have a child at South Medford High School.
They saw the additional week off as a chance for more family time and for children to catch up on schoolwork.
Not fully endorsing the longer break were some working parents who said it was difficult to find child care.
Also, some parents questioned how teachers can raise student test scores with 170 instructional days, among the lowest in the nation.
Reducing instructional days is one way for districts with tight budgets to cut costs.
Barely represented in the survey, which was open to all parents, were families with children at Central Medford High School and Howard and Washington elementary schools.
In another district survey, 500 teachers and staff were asked whether they liked the two-week break: 75.1 percent said they did, while 13.7 percent did not and 11.2 percent said it didn't matter.
Teachers, who were off for both weeks this year, said they felt recharged when they returned to the classroom and noted that the children were calmer.
Support staff worked at least part of the second week.
The new school calendar includes time for teacher professional development and curriculum preparation "as part of a long-term focus to improve students' core academic skills and graduation rates," said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long.
Licensed teachers will have 186 contract days this school year.
The new school year is modeled after the 2012-13 calendar, with an added recess day in early May. This can be used as a snow makeup day, if needed, said Long.
The first day of school is Sept. 3 and the last day is June 6, 2014.
Students will have the weeks of December 23 and 30 for winter break.
Spring break will be the weeks of March 24 and 31.
Long sees school breaks as opportunities for extra learning and enrichment activities.
This past spring, North Medford High and other schools had catch-up classes for students who were behind in their credits.
The Rogue Valley Family YMCA and Kids Unlimited, both based in Medford, planned activities for younger children during the two weeks.
Tom Cole of Kids Unlimited said the extended spring break was a struggle for some families enrolled in his program.
"We provided supplemental services during those two weeks," he said, "and made the best of it."
Brad Russell, executive director of the Rogue Valley YMCA, said that some families found the schedule frustrating, not so much because of the length of the break, but because school district calendars weren't coordinated.
Children who attended schools in other districts weren't off the same weeks as those in Medford schools.
"Families trying to plan a trip with another family discovered the calendars didn't match up," he said.
Russell said that the YMCA staff evaluates school schedules in the summer and starts to plan wrap-around activities for breaks.
He said that late-start days, early-release days and singular days off also can worry a working parent.
"If we had the choice, we would prefer a two-week break over one week in the spring and then singular days throughout the year," he said. "That would be more considerate and convenient for parents."
Stay-at-home mom Karen Starchvick of Jacksonville has two children at South Medford High.
"Personally, I love the two-week break, because it gives you the option to take a vacation without missing any school days," said Starchvick, who volunteers at the high school and is the local chapter chair of Stand for Children, an education advocacy group.
She acknowledges that because she doesn't work outside of her home, she has a flexible schedule.
"I think it is important that the district recognize not all family work situations are the same," she said. "It's important that options be available irregardless of ability to pay."
Children can receive scholarships at the YMCA, Kids Unlimited and other after-school programs.
Tracy Harding, an Ashland mother of two and the director of the Rogue Valley Farm to School program, remembers when the Ashland School District incorporated a two-week spring break four years ago.
"My family loved it," she said. "In my statewide work, I have heard that some districts are considering a whole week off for Thanksgiving, which is also welcomed."
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.