District hopes breaks offer enough relief to arduous October

November 19, 2013 — by Helen Chen, Gwynevere Hunger and Oksana Trifonova

For many students, the first few months of school can be rough, especially for seniors: Getting past the Nov. 1 early deadline for college applications can be the hardest part of the year.

For many students, the first few months of school can be rough, especially for seniors: Getting past the Nov. 1 early deadline for college applications can be the hardest part of the year.

The district added a day off for students every October starting in 2010, in large part over complaints about the difficulty of having no breaks between Labor Day and Veterans Day.

“I had students breaking down, often in tears, every year at the beginning of October,” English teacher Cathy Head said. “What they all had in common was [their] inability to cope with the normal stresses of life.”

Head said that although short, the October break has helped lessen “that inability to cope, and [give students] a little more energy from one day off.”

Except for Veterans Day, Labor Day, and now a Monday in early October, students are faced week after week with numerous tests, quizzes and projects. In the time span of four months, students a total of six days off.

Any additional days off would have to be decided on by the district calendar committee, which plans schedules two years in advance. Every year, the district calendar committee reviews calendar proposals for the next two years. This committee is made up of teachers, parents and administrators from the two high schools. Three years ago, after much input from both Saratoga and Los Gatos High school, the committee decided to have first semester end before winter break.

“Student stress was the primary reason for moving the semester break to coincide with the December break,” assistant superintendent Jeff Anderson said.

Anderson said that when the semester ended after New Year’s, “students found themselves studying during the holidays.”

The first-semester stress is even greater for seniors who are applying to college. On top of the regular school work, most seniors must also complete essay-filled college applications. With all of their school work, many seniors say they are hardly left with enough time to double up on other work that needs to be done.

“It is stressful and tough for students with tons of activities so it would be a great relief and help if we had extra days off or an extra break,” senior Phillip Cai said. “However, it would mess with teachers’ plans which could prove to become a problem.”

Freshmen going into high school are often overwhelmed with this non-stop school schedule, and having more time to adjust into the demanding high school pace could ease this transition.

Labor Day and Veterans Day provide a few days off from school that make an enormous difference for students, who catch up on schoolwork or simply unwind and enjoy a much-deserved break from the pressures that surround them.

“You have more time to rest or work, which means that you can actually distribute your work over a wider range of time,” said junior William Hua.