Elementary through high school students across much of the Washington region returned to school Thursday for a short week after a holiday-packed winter vacation.
But in 2015, Prince William County students will have a couple of more days to recover: a break of a full two weeks, according to a 2014-15 academic calendar recently approved by the county School Board.
In the fall, more than 5,000 students and others in Prince William signed a petition requesting a longer winter break this year in exchange for the school district eliminating three scheduled half-days of school in January that had been associated with midterm exams that are no longer mandatory.
“Pleeeeaaassseee so much stress, I need a longer break,” one student wrote in the petition’s comment section.
Another commenter wrote: “Let these kids have a full 2 weeks off, please! Their family members who live out of state would love an opportunity to see them!!”
Phil Kavits, a spokesman for the school district, said it was not possible to make a change for this year.
“Once the calendar is set, it’s pretty much locked in,” Kavits said. “People make their plans around it.”
But an advisory committee that created the schedule found a way to lengthen the vacation next year, he said. The next winter holiday will extend from Dec. 22 through Jan. 2.
The advisory board, made up of parents, students and school employees, also added a division-wide professional learning day on Columbus Day, which will mean an extra day off for students in the fall.
Virginia schools are required to have at least 180 days of instruction, and flexibility is limited by scheduling requirements. For example, Virginia schools can’t start classes before Labor Day, and they need to build in a cushion for snow days and holidays.
School Board Member Alyson A. Satterwhite (Gainesville) thanked students at a meeting in early December for getting so involved in the issue, citing a “huge volume” of e-mail she had received.
“I hope you will stay engaged,” she said.