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Why do elementary teachers/students need semester break

Original post made by Elem Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 18, 2007

Of all the years I have had my children in school, I have often wondered and asked why the elementary teachers need a day off at the end of the semester. I can understand why high school and possibly 7th and 8th grade teachers need time to grade, grade exams, etc., admin. staff need a day without students to resort schedules, classes, etc., but why oh why do elementary teachers and consequently the students need a day off. Do elementary teachers actually go to school to do preparatory work, is there stuff that they must do on this day, or is it just another teacher development day? Do they actually get developed? Why must we have another long weekend after a ridiculously short week? I have asked many people at school and been told many different answers. Does anybody have any idea? Or, should we just speculate?

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2007 at 5:10 pm

I imagine its a pretty cost effective way for the district to give teachers a planned day off - other types of employees get random FTO (flexible time off) days at work, its just that when we take them, our jobs don't necessarily have to hire substitutes for the day.

But if teachers take their days as flexible days, then the district has to hire substitutes.

I imagine if the district offers a coordinated planned day, this would be a way of mandating a particular day, and closing the school down so that no subs need to be hired anywhere on that day. Seems like it might save the district sub cost for one day? (perhaps $135/day * number of teachers in district? Maybe $100K or more?

Maybe its a financial thing? I think they also try to balance the number of instruction days in each semester... The first semester is shorter in calendar days, so maybe the compensate with more days off in the second semester?

- just speculating.

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Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 19, 2007 at 11:49 am

I have often wondered this myself and have my own theory which seems to fit.

Our children have to have 180 instructional days at school, but there is no saying how long those days must be. When the secondary schools have back to school night and open house, when the teachers have to work, the district makes a minimum day for them in lieu of the time spent working in the evening. This usually happens the Friday after the event. The elementary teachers do not get these two half days so they get their lieu time as semester break.

It fits the facts, serves the teachers not the families, but is probably down to a union driven policy rather than what is best. The secondary teachers probably do need a no student work day at the end of the semester and the elementary teachers don't. This way everyone gets what they want except parents who have to find a day of childcare.

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