’Tis the season to be… under pressure?

Administration must evaluate length of winter recess, other breaks


Kai Lincke

Strath Haven High School students walk to the building, from the car line, on January 24, 2022– the first day of the second semester. That morning, the majority of classes and schedules switched for the final half of the 2021-2022 school year.

Collin Woodland, Contributor

At Haven, the first half of January has always been an awkward period for students in sweeping the cobwebs away from winter break while transitioning into fall semester finals. This year especially, students have found themselves irregularly overtaxed in coming back from a break that was widely criticized as illegitimate. 

Starting on December 23rd and spanning ten days, the briefness of this winter break is anything but a random scheduling discrepancy, but rather the result of an unsettled school board dispute from early January of last year. The Board was challenged on the decision of whether Election Day should be held as an asynchronous day for students or a teacher-in-service day as previously outlined. As all students likely remember how asynchronous days worked out, with the levels of work assigned, they were anything but a day off. Teacher-in-service days, however, are true off days for students, as they remain home while teachers complete training and workshopping. 

Election Day was ultimately designated a teacher in-service day. Because the school district has to meet their state-mandated requirements of instructional learning days, this off day had to come from somewhere else in the schedule; unfortunately this “somewhere” impeded into winter break. 

An asynchronous Election Day would have counted as an instructional day and lengthened our break by one day. However, it is evident that this is simply not good enough for students intent on a longer time off. 

When asked if she was satisfied with the length of winter break, junior Lydia Pita replied with a simple but emphatic: “No.” 

When asked to elaborate, Pita responded with a more passionate sentiment. 

“Not only is it just a week, but teachers assigned work; so we have looming finals and the additional pressure to worry about your grades, as well as not being able to travel, relax, or even sleep off the burnout over your week-long break,” she said.

Although Haven has implemented some initiatives to improve student mental health, students believe that a substantial break from the everyday stress of school should be equally valued. ”

Educational burnout amongst Haven students has become so notorious the school has even gained the moniker “Stress Haven” around campus to refer to the extreme volumes of work that is demanded. Therefore, whenever a break comes up, it’s often used as a time where students are able to unwind and step away from the rudimentary stress they receive from their day-to-day workload. 

Junior Luke DiBoniventura expands on this topic by expressing his thoughts on the questionable mental health of Haven students. 

“The sheer workload that’s spread out between four classes, also with the kids that do a lot of extracurriculars, can be really taxing, so I think a longer break would’ve definitely helped with mitigating that stress,” he said. 

From these accounts, it is clear that Haven students are not confident the school is sufficiently prioritizing their emotional well-being. Although Haven has implemented initiatives to improve student mental health such as eliminating class rank, and making mental and emotional health services more accessible, students believe that a substantial break from the everyday stress of school should be equally valued. 

In light of these responses, the question of what an ideal break would even look like must be considered. The options proposed by these same students were anything but drastic. 

DiBonaventura suggested that a twelve-day break would still be less than ideal but more feasible, and product of the Colorado state public school system, Lydia Pita, held firm at the two-week minimum she was accustomed to before moving to Pennsylvania. 

Though these students were confident that these extensions are reasonable windows, they were intent on securing as much break time as they could possibly get from the school. When students are desperate for any outlet to alleviate their school anxiety, the question begs of what the school can do to effectively deliver on their promises of mental and emotional wellbeing. 

While some factors in the creation of this year’s reduced break were out of the school’s control (more specifically, COVID’s impact), in WSSD’s unofficial 2022-2023 calendar for next year, Winter Recess has remained the same at ten days. Accordingly, the school board must reconsider the length of future breaks to allow students more of a break from the stress of school life.

It is time for the administration to listen to the concerns of their students, and for the students, in turn, to demand their voices be heard by the powers that are supposedly putting them first.