Shutting down early for Thanksgiving Break: A poor decision


Superintendent Swift announced the closure of schools next week on Nov. 17 in an evening email sent to parents.

Less than one week before Thanksgiving Break was set to begin, superintendent Jeanice Swift sent out an email announcing her decision to extend the break by two days. She cited rising coronavirus numbers and staffing shortages among schools as the reasoning behind the now week-long break. While students and staff may celebrate some extra vacation, there are numerous reasons why this decision was both problematic and lacking in logic. 

It is reasonable to assume that the district’s worst nightmare is another round of virtual schooling as parents would ardently push back, considering last year’s opposition. The most likely scenario in which online school may become necessary, though, is when students come back from break, not before they even leave. Those who travel and bring the virus back could cause a mini outbreak, which could result in a necessity to shut schools down. Canceling school before a break during which traveling to see family is commonplace is just ludicrous. Students won’t have traveled yet, and are no more likely to have the coronavirus than they have these entire past couple of months. Despite rising numbers in cases, shutting down two days early is not the solution. 

It seems clear that the better route would have been to go about business as usual until after Thanksgiving Break. Taking the first few days off after the break would have been wisest, so as to allow students to get tested and to quarantine if necessary. Shutting down early does little good in terms of the coronavirus numbers.

Meanwhile, after these extra two days off, the district has used three of the six missed school days that the state government allows. We’re halfway to having to add days to the end of the year. We haven’t even seen a big snowstorm yet, nor have we had the long breaks in winter and spring. If the district escapes having to resort to virtual schooling after this break, will it be the same case for the next major holiday break? An extended school year or online schooling are two things no one wants. 

Even more serious, working parents with young children are suffering greatly because they now face a serious childcare issue. While most high schoolers are trusted to be left alone for the day, young children in elementary school are not in the same boat. Parents must now scramble to find a way to ensure care for their children during the no-school days before break. Parents need to arrange to bring their kids to work or find a competent and available caretaker which is much easier said than done. 

Even if, somehow, finding childcare is a manageable issue, it is nearly impossible given such short notice. Ypsilanti public schools announced the same closure on Nov. 8, weeks before AAPS did. Given this, the AAPS district was almost certainly considering shutting down for quite a while before making it official. So why did AAPS spend weeks deliberating? Sure, it’s a tough decision, but it’s one that needs to be made well in advance of a closure, if for no other reason than to give parents the time to find decent childcare. Because of so much hesitation and practically an eleventh-hour decision, the parents of young AAPS children are in some serious trouble.

In fairness to the district, it is worth mentioning that staffing is a serious problem. Already horribly understaffed, the district routinely gets lower staff attendance rates in the two days before Thanksgiving Break, per Swift’s email. Two separate pay incentives have already been offered this semester, and still the district lacks teachers and substitute teachers. From this perspective, shutting down before Thanksgiving Break may appear to have some logic to it. However, the flaws in executing the shutdown swiftly and the problems that parents are left with do not make this a worthy decision. 

The decision to shut school down early for Thanksgiving Break was a flawed call. Despite a rise in coronavirus numbers, taking these particular two days off will only help minimally, when doing the same (if necessary) after a break would potentially stop a full-on outbreak. Meanwhile, the likelihood of adding days to the end of the school year just went up tenfold. School closures should be exclusively announced for snow days and when a legitimate outbreak is occurring. And while students and staff may suffer in the future, parents have been put in a very difficult position by hearing the news only five days ahead of time. The district messed up. We can only hope that further mistakes like this won’t occur, for the sake of the student body, the staff and the parents of AAPS students.