The pandemic is already impacting summer plans for students in Lee County.
The Lee County School Board voted on its 2021-22 school year calendar Tuesday, and it included shortening summer break to seven weeks compared to the usual 10-week vacation.
Some parents told us they understand the decision. Kids went back to school later to start the current school year because of the pandemic, so they expected a shorter summer going into next school year.
But other parents told us they think it’s important that kids get their usual length of summer break, especially after a tough year.
It’s been a school year full of changes: A later start to the school year, virtual learning, masks in classrooms and now a shorter summer break.
Student Zachary Welsh says a seven-week summer break is not enough for students to decompress.
“I think it wouldn’t be beneficial to the students because that break is for vacations, just a relaxation from a busy school year,” said Welsh, who is in high school. “Especially this year because of COVID, it’s been very stressful with me personally as a student.”
The school year started three weeks late because of the rise in COVID-19 cases at the time, so kids will be in school until June 17, 2021.
The school board approved a calendar that makes the first day of next school year Aug. 10, 2021. Some parents and students say a shorter break is unfair.
“It would just cut them off shorter for … their free time,” parent Nina Sanchez said. “And I just think they deserve it.”
“Countless other students who plan on doing something over the summer, whether a job or if they have to babysit, shortening that summer might cause distress within families,” Welsh said.
But other parents, such as Donna Laikona, say kids need to get back in the groove of starting school around the time they did before the pandemic. She sees benefits to a shorter break.
“There’s children that are in our community that don’t have food for the summer, so this will help also, making sure that those families can get those kids to school, and they do have meals for a longer period of time,” Laikona said.
A teacher with the school district voiced another concern about next year’s calendar during public comment. The calendar lists Veterans Day as a makeup hurricane day.
“I think all parents and families need to be flexible right now,” Laikona said. “We need to be understanding of what the experts are telling us.”