Meade School Board votes to extend Thanksgiving break

The Meade School Board voted Tuesday to extend Thanksgiving break from three days to five days. School board members called the added time off  “mental health” days for students and staff. Courtesy photo

STURGIS — Meade School District students and staff will have an extended Thanksgiving week break in November.

The 2020-2021 school calendar adopted by the district had set Thanksgiving break as Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25-27. The Meade School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the Thanksgiving break to a full week by adding Monday and Tuesday.

Meade School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard said Meade School Board member Charlie Wheeler had asked recently if there was an opportunity to give students and staff some extra time off.

“I told him I didn’t know if there was. I’d like to do something on a regular basis if I could because it has been a challenging year for everybody,” Kirkegaard said.

After looking over the school calendar and the set number of instructional hours required, Kirkegaard determined that it may be feasible to add in extra vacation days.

State law (SDCL 13-26-1) establishes the minimum number of hours in a school term as follows: For kindergarten, the minimum is 437.5 hours; for grades 1-5, the minimum is 875 hours (exclusive of intermissions); and for grades 6-12, the minimum is 962.5 hours (exclusive of intermissions).

Kirkegaard said he knew they could fit in the extra days off in the second semester, but felt that it was necessary to do it the first semester.

“This is an opportunity for some added days to just recapture or regroup a little bit,” he said.

Even with the two added non-instruction days during Thanksgiving week, the district have the flexibility to provide for some snow make-up days if needed, Kirkegaard said.

Meade School Board President Joe Urbaniak thanked those for encouraging the district to build some “mental health” days into the calendar.

“I think it’s a great idea. Thank you, not only to Mr. Wheeler, but to Mr. Weber for hounding on us. I think it’s wonderful,” he said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and extra stress, Wheeler said he had heard from several teachers saying they were concerned about their health both mentally and physically.

Wheeler said he first thought maybe there would be an opportunity for a recurring day off each month for students and staff, but Kirkegaard said he didn’t think the district would have enough instructional hours to do that.

“We are asking an incredible amount of our staff, and this is the least we can do,” he said. “It shows we are doing what we can to take care of our teachers.”

Wheeler said he had already heard from a teacher who said the extra two days were greatly appreciated.

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