LAKE PLACID - Three school districts in the North Country that have traditionally shared the same schedule for spring break have conflicting calendars this year, a shift that worries some administrators and has others discussing the educational benefits - and drawbacks - of school vacations.
The Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid central school districts are all on separate spring break schedules - a change that affects some students at the Adirondack Educational Center, more commonly known as Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES.
Most school districts in New York take one week off in late February and another in mid-April, while the school districts covering the Tri-Lakes area traditionally take one two-week break in April.
This year, things will be different.
In Tupper Lake, for example, students and faculty will take one week in late February and another in mid-April.
Saranac Lake has scheduled its spring break for the first two weeks of April, while Lake Placid's break extends over the second and third week of the month.
"We're really looking to mirror most of the rest of the state, and in particular the north end of our county," said Seth McGowan, superintendent of the Tupper Lake Central School District. "The BOCES that we belong to has a calendar where there is a split in the break."
McGowan said it makes sense to mimic school schedules shared by a majority of districts statewide.
He also notes there's an educational benefit to being away from school for just one week as opposed to 14 days.
"I certainly think there's virtue to it," McGowan said. "There's an advantage to not being away from a learning environment for two full weeks, for sure."
Last February, the board of education in Saranac Lake discussed splitting up its spring break as well.
That conversation sparked a thoughtful debate among teachers, parents, and students. Some agreed with McGowan's sentiment - that two weeks away from school has negative effects on a student's ability to learn.
Others, like Mike Ryan of Saranac Lake, claimed that studies have shown there's a negligible difference between one week and two week vacations.
"Testing has shown that over the course of either a two or three week vacation, the learning loss is virtually eliminated," he said. "There were no indications that a two-week vacation is detrimental to the learning of our children."
At the time, Saranac Lake Superintendent Jerry Goldman said he supported breaking up the vacation, noting that being away from any activity for an extended period of time is counterproductive.
"It just doesn't seem to me, on any level, to be very debatable that when you're away from something for a length period of time - whether it's practicing how to parallel park, or how to bunt, or how to throw a football, or how to do quadratic equations - the longer you're away from it, the more difficult it is to get back to it," he said.
Ultimately, the school board and the administration opted to stick with the status quo.
Goldman says the separate calendars could negatively affect students and faculty at the BOCES-operated Adirondack Educational Center in Saranac Lake.
"Their goal is to get us on a consistent calendar," he said. "That way their calendar looks like our calendar. If you think of it from a logical standpoint, if all three districts have a different calendar and they try to follow all three, their staff is going to end up working many more days than they would otherwise have to."
Stephen Shafer is district superintendent for Franklin-Essex-Hamilton BOCES. He explains that high school juniors and seniors attending the Adirondack Educational Center spend a half-day at the campus and take classes in career and technical education programs, like cosmetology.
In the face of three different schedules, Shafer says BOCES has done its best to make accommodations.
"In a perfect world, if everybody was on the same schedule, that would be most advantageous for kids coming to the career and technical education center," he said.
Shafer says AEC may be open on days when a particular district is closed - and students on vacation will still have the option to attend class.
That could be particularly important for student in fields like cosmetology, in which the state requires a strict number of specific hours in order to receive a license.
BOCES scheduling issues aside, Superintendent McGowan believes Saranac Lake and Lake Placid may eventually follow in his district's footsteps.
"We see that it's sort of imminent that it's going to be the way things are going to be in the next few years - we're just getting a jumpstart on it," he said.
In Lake Placid, changing the spring break schedule isn't as easy as an up-or-down school board vote - the two-week break is written into contracts for the teachers' union.
Lake Placid is also reluctant to split the break because tourists flock to the area during President's Week - merchants, many of whom have students in the school system, want to stay in town and keep their shops open.