The Importance of Having Breaks in the School Year

          Anxious, burned out, overwhelmed, lonely, depressed, isolated, stressed, stuck, uncertain, empty, done. These eleven emotions and more are how many individuals, especially the youth, are feeling nowadays. We are heading into our second year of pandemic living as a second pandemic of mental health problems is also arising. The New York Times had asked 1,320 mental health professionals to tell them how patients were doing during these times, and it wasn’t good. Regarding children’s mental health problems, “about 13 percent of the therapists surveyed said their practices focused primarily on children and adolescents.” This pandemic has unveiled a huge mental health crisis among the youth, and many aren’t getting the help they need.  


         There aren’t enough therapists out in the world right now to help all that are struggling because the therapists are all fully booked. People can’t escape being isolated and locked away in their homes. The pandemic has also caused many to mourn about family members or friends who have lost their lives to covid. Many are feeling they are living in their own world alone, with no support available. Those struggling are uncertain about the future and scared of what’s to come. There has been so much change in daily actions and who knows if it’ll ever go back to the way things used to be.  


         The act of attending school and learning has looked very different these past school years. Students aren’t used to the new “norm” of rules and strategies put in place to keep everyone safe and healthy. Especially in these unprecedented times, breaks are needed more than ever as students are overwhelmed by their new experiences in school as well as the stress some are encountering from the pandemic. The responsibilities students must do for school put a lot of stress and other emotions on a student’s academic life, leading to many mental health problems. It’s important for students to get breaks in the school year schedule to step back from all the work and enjoy their lives.  


         John Jay High School had their usual winter break from December 24th to January 2nd to celebrate the holidays, new year, and time off. Students and teachers also have a spring break from April 11th to April 19th, to rest before the exhausting end of the school year and to enjoy the warm weather that’s approaching. But while many schools have a February break in between the winter and spring breaks, the Katonah Lewisboro School District does not. The February break was taken away when Hurricane Sandy had hit in 2012 and was never given back. However, many school districts surrounding Katonah Lewisboro continue to have February breaks, such as the Bedford School District, Chappaqua School District, North Salem School District, Somers School District, Yorktown School District—they are all just a few examples. All those schools listed have a week off from school, while John Jay only has one day off for Presidents Day on February 18th. Since most schools surrounding us have a February break, why don’t we? Shouldn’t students get a break in February to decompress from all that has happened recently? It’s exhausting for high school students to go from winter break to spring break without a break, with all the work and exams they have. It’s in the best interest of the students to have a break in between their winter and spring break.  


        Breaks in the school year are mentally and physically beneficial to individuals’ health, especially since many are struggling with it currently. For instance, the winter break is the first big break coming back from school where students can relax and spend time with family. Students have the constant stress and pressure of school on their backs and being able to stay home or go on a vacation is a good break away from it. Throughout the school year, students, especially high school students, are swamped with work and are unable to hang out with family and friends sometimes. Additionally, students aren’t used to all the work they’ve been getting recently since they haven’t had it for over a year. Over winter recess, families and friends are able to reconnect and create memories together that they haven’t been able to make for a while now. Students need to gather themselves together because once the break is done, they’re back into the repetitive schedule of work. Additionally, coming back from winter recess marks almost the end of the second quarter; and the third quarter is always a most stressful and overwhelming quarter to get through.  

        Similarly, spring break is also very beneficial for students’ physical and mental health. This break provides students with a second to breathe and relax before the last wave of work comes. Spring break is only a few weeks before AP exams for high school students, which is a very stressful time for them. Spring break is more of a time where families go on fun vacations as the weather is getting warmer. Many families are looking forward to spring break since many haven’t traveled in over two years. Students are able to play outside and enjoy the good weather approaching. Spring break has been very beneficial to students’ mental health since the week of vacation allows the students to have a mental decompression from demanding school responsibilities. Spring break also benefits individuals’ physical health as the weather is becoming warmer. When a student is in a healthy mental state, then the student will also have a healthy physical state. Spring break is a time to obtain new health benefits that arise from spending time in the sunshine and fresh air. Students don’t have to think about assignments or deadlines, which overall benefits their mental health.


        The main issue with winter and spring break is that they are four months apart. And during those four months, students are anxious and stressed out during the school year and can’t maintain the healthy habits they were able to achieve over winter break. Students need that February break to just unwind and feel at ease. School was online for almost over a year and students aren’t used to learning in school. John Jay students came back to school on September 9th and had to find ways to get back into school habits and routines that they haven’t experienced for a while.  


        High school is a very crucial and tense time in a student’s academic life. There are so many responsibilities on high school students’ plate, whether they must do homework, study, work, play a sport or activity, take SAT or ACT tests, look at or visit colleges, take AP exams, etc. Having a break in the school year could help a student relax and feel okay. So many emotions flow through students in high school and sometimes it can get to be a lot. Students become frustrated with school which often leads to them not being excited to learn or even attend.  


        Breaks can refresh and motivate students, so when they go back to school, they are driven and prepared to learn and grow. Just putting a February break back in the schedule gives students a chance to step away from the stress and decompress…to breathe again. They can stop thinking about assignments and grades and begin thinking more about themselves. Stress plays a significant role in student’s life, especially high school students. There’s a lot of weight and pressure on students’ backs and to be given time off (and time out of the school setting) is so beneficial to their overall well-being.