WILLMAR -- Questions raised during meetings to plan school year calendars led to a somewhat confusing discussion about spring breaks Monday at a Willmar School Board workshop session.
The outcome was a strong statement from the School Board regarding the district's spring breaks -- They are scheduled for staff and students to recharge for the rest of the school year and not to accommodate music or foreign language trips.
Board members who are part of the Meet and Confer meetings in the district raised questions they have heard about school-sponsored trips and the amount of time music or foreign language students are out of school for trips built around spring break.
Other board members said they didn't understand what the problem was.
Senior High Principal Rob Anderson said someone at the Meet and Confer meeting asked if those trips could be taken in June.
Teachers from music and foreign languages departments said the trips they take with students are always planned around the district's spring break week to cut down on the number of school days that students miss. The trip to Spain will be shorter than usual this spring because the district does not have a full week for spring break.
Spanish teacher Marla Schroeder said they listen to scheduling suggestions from other teachers in planning their trips, too.
Schroeder and music teacher Neal Haugen said there would be some challenges in taking summer trips. One would be that students might be less likely to follow school rules in a summer trip, and seniors who have graduated would be less susceptible to discipline.
Travel costs are higher in the summer, they said, and in the case of going to Spain, traveling with a group of students would be more difficult at the height of the tourist season.
Anderson said he gets more complaints about students missing trips for sports than he does for the music or language trips, which take place in alternating years.
"I don't understand what the rub is," said board member Eric Roberts.
Board member Mike Carlson said no one questions the value of the trips, but they do question the length of the trips and the district's purpose for a spring break. Many people think the spring break is scheduled for the sake of the language and music trips, he said.
"It's for sanity," interjected board member Dion Warne, because students and staff need the time to "recharge."
Anderson said the groups "adjust to your calendar," as evidenced by the shorter trip this year when a late start left no room for a full spring break.
Board member Mike Reynolds said they were looking for ideas about how to handle the trips and spring break.
"How far are we going to micromanage this," asked board member Sandi Unger. "I think these are great opportunities for our kids."
Anderson said he thought the language and music trips were more scrutinized because students are gone for consecutive days. However, other activities take students from class for as many days or more.
Reynolds said he appreciated the discussion. "We needed to get this on the table so we can put it to bed," he said.