Canyons students back in class Monday, despite federal holiday

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 6:32 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite the fact Monday, Jan. 2 is the official federal New Year's Day holiday this year, students in the Canyons School District will be at school while many of their parents are off work.

Teachers, students and district employees enjoyed a cushy two-week long winter break complete with three full holiday weekends, but some parents and teachers wonder why theirs is one of the only districts along the Wasatch Front in session on Monday.

According to a district statement, the district "was aware of the federal holiday observance designation when it proposed the calendar, but decided it was more important to safeguard three consecutive winter-break weekends for families. … Much thought is put into the calendar, and many factors are taken into consideration."

Canyons Education Association President Ross Rogers said students always learn better when they have five-day weeks.

"Even though it is a federal holiday on the 2nd, it would be better to come back and have a full week. … It's really hard to teach kids when you have a four-day week."

The district calendar was set by a district Calendaring Committee long before winter break rolled around. Comprised of teachers, parents, administrators and other staff, the committee was tasked with balancing holidays, winter and spring breaks, hot schools in the summer and the Utah Education Association fall convention. What's more, the school has to be in session a minimum of 180 days per year. If the district took Monday off, Rogers said they'd have to extend the school year in June.

"There is not a single teacher or parent or student who wants to go further into June," Rogers said.

Because some schools don't have air conditioning and parents and students alike value a long summer break, that wasn't a viable option, he said.

While Rogers said he received calls from a handful of teachers unhappy about working on a federal holiday, he said organizations and businesses commonly choose which holidays they'll observe, with banks taking off Columbus and Veteran's Day when schools typically don't.

He said once he explained to teachers the reasoning behind the decision, they understood.

"Once the teachers understood the different choices we had, they were happy with it," he said.

"When you're trying to do a calendar that affects so many different people," he said, "you just can't please everyone."

Some parents will undoubtedly dislike having their kids in school, but it's unclear if there will be more absenteeism. Rogers said he's hopeful they'll understand that shortened weeks makes classroom learning difficult.

"(You) don't want to break it into a bunch of small pieces. It affects the kids' learning. It really does," he said.

According to the district, Weber, Beaver, Duchesne, Grand, Iron, North Summit and Rich school districts will also be in session on Monday.

E-mail: mfarmer@desnews.com Twitter: mollyfarmer

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