The February break is upon us. Apparently, the idea for Presidents' Week surfaced in the 1977-78 school year in NYC when heating schools became increasingly expensive. The energy crisis was equaled by a fiscal crisis in the City. In 1977, the NYC Board of Education unanimously decided to close the schools for the entire week.
The February break became permanent in 1991 following a deal worked out between the Board of Ed. and the UFT. This time the Board voted 6 to 1 in its favor. The February break was granted in return for the four-to-five year partial deferral of teachers' wages as a measure to prevent mid-year layoffs. Another cost-saving and somewhat controversial part of the agreement provided that teachers could now retire immediately following their sabbaticals.
Although the break seems like a boon to overworked teachers and students, some parents find it very inconvenient. They must find child care. For the poorest parents, their children no longer have access to free warm meals via their school.
Following Hurricane Sandy, NYC teachers gave back the last three days of their February break, Wednesday the 20th through Friday the 22nd, 2013 (as well as June 4th), to help make up for lost instructional time. Teachers who had already purchased vacation tickets could still get away by taking days in their CAR, borrowing days or taking days without pay without further penalty.
While there might be some who bemoan the origins of the February break or its potential inconvenience, I, for one, find it entirely convenient (and even more so, if it coincides with the Winter Olympics; alas, not this year). Moreover, I see students outside the City, enjoying these same four days of freedom. Given some of the weather forecasts and fears of frostbite, I am sure there is a heck of a lot of money to be saved in heating schools as long as it doesn't come back to haunt the City through frozen or burst pipes. Be warm and be well, pipes included!