Editorial / School board gets an 'A' for chopping winter break

Culpepper Compensation Surveys and Services is a Georgia-based company that tracks the pay and benefits of workers around the world.

In the United States, Culpepper reports, the average worker with five years on the job gets 25 paid days off a year -- 16 vacation days and nine paid holidays.

In the Fairfield public schools, students get 75 days off a year, weekends not included.

Of that, kids get 50 days off during the 10-week summer vacation, a time-honored tradition that kids deserve. So let's not mess with it.

Remove that 10-week, 50-days-off period from the "I-need-a-break" equation, and here is what we're left with:

The average worker gets 25 days off over a period of 52 weeks.

Fairfield school kids get 25 days off over a period of just 42 weeks, the typical school year.

The Board of Education this week decided that students don't need that much R&R during the school year and voted to eliminate the five-day February vacation from next year's school calendar.

It's a smart move that could either allow summer vacation to start earlier or, if school cancellations piled up during the year, would allow make-up days to be completed before the sweltering last days of June turn school buildings to ovens and kids' brains to mush.

But all on the school board were not sold on the plan. The vote was 5-3-1.

The calendar culprits, of course, are school cancellations that force makeup days to be tacked on at the end of the school year. Even before winter has arrived, the schools this year already have exhausted the three-day cushion built into the calendar.

The first two days of the school year were canceled in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, which left half the town without power. Another day was lost after the freak October snowstorm.

The next cancellation -- and it's just a matter of time -- will result in a day being sliced off the April school vacation. If this winter is anything like last year's, some officials may be wishing they'd scratched February vacation this year.

Those who spoke against the measure at Tuesday's board meeting argued that students needed the break, and at least one said teachers needed the break. That's hard to accept.

Since the Thanksgiving recess, schools will be in session for only 20 consecutive days before the more-than-one-week Christmas-New Year's break.

With a four-day weekend in mid-January built around Martin Luther King Day, it's hard to believe that healthy youngsters would be ready to collapse just four weeks later. The traditional April vacation would stay in the calendar.

Another thin argument was that people tend to get sick in February. Perhaps true, but people get colds and flu in December, January and March, too. We are aware of no virus so smart that it targets specific weeks of the year.

In response to a question, School Superintendent David Title said more learning likely would happen in the third week of February than in the third week in June.

The people who make a killing renting out their condos at Killington to ski families will lose a few Fairfield bookings. The board of The Walt Disney Co. and the Orlando Chamber of Commerce will frown and hope the Fairfield plan doesn't catch on across the Northeast.

But for lot of working parents, cancelling the February vacation will solve the daytime child-care crisis that school vacations create. And for families scraping to make ends meet, the avoidance of babysitting or day-camp costs will be a godsend.

What of the tired teachers?

Join the club.