Brevard Public Schools mull extending Thanksgiving break to a week despite concerns

Bailey Gallion
Florida Today

Brevard Public Schools announced last-minute plans on Wednesday to extend its Thanksgiving break for the entire week.

The schedule change must be officially approved by the School Board at its Tuesday evening meeting, but at least four board members signaled support for the plan at a Wednesday meeting. Superintendent Mark Mullins and the board members said they hoped the additional days off might provide relief to burnt out staff and students.

Mullins said the additional days off were made possible because of a quiet hurricane season, and that they were especially needed this year. In a joint video statement posted to social media, Mullins and School Board Chair Misty Belford said the school year has been made especially hard due to the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 and a nationwide staffing shortage.

“And yet, each day, our staff step up and take on additional responsibilities, sacrifice planning time to cover classes, check in on a student who needs some extra help, and make sure their colleagues are doing okay,” Belford said. “Our families, students and volunteers have stayed engaged in the educational journey despite what has been a very unique year.”

The announcement on BPS’ public Facebook page quickly drew a mixed reception from parents, with many expressing concern that working parents might struggle to find childcare for the additional two days. Thanksgiving break was initially scheduled to run from Wednesday to Friday.

The Brevard County School Board signaled support Wednesday for Superintendent Mark Mullins' recommendation to extend Thanksgiving break from three days to five, giving students and district staff an entire week off. The School Board will make an official vote at a Tuesday meeting.

“It certainly is one of the most popular, most persistent asks of our community and of our employees when we work on our school calendar,” Mullins said.

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But Mullins acknowledged that the change was being made with little advance notice. He said he had spoken to Brevard County Parks and Recreation about extending a day camp to provide some childcare, and had reached out to local religious leaders to discuss additional options.

“Brevard takes care of Brevard,” Mullins said. “We don't want to provide additional stress to families, certainly, during this time, so I'm pleased that we've got these opportunities that are being worked on.”

The district has also spoken to the Children’s Hunger Project, which has agreed to send students home with five days’ worth of food the Friday before Thanksgiving so that children do not go hungry over the extended break.

District employees will still be paid for Monday and Tuesday, Mullins said.

Board members said they felt district employees and students needed the time off.

“Being a VPS employee myself, it may seem silly to people listening in the public — an extra day or two to yourself, to breathe, doesn't seem like a big deal,” board member Jennifer Jenkins said. “But it absolutely is especially when it comes around that holiday time and around this halfway point for educators.”

“People are worn out,” board Vice Chair Matt Susin said. “(From) many vacant positions throughout our district are being covered by teachers, to principals writing COVID, quarantines, and tracing and everything else. It's been a long haul.”

Brevard Federation of Teachers President Anthony Colucci, who gave a presentation at the Oct. 26 School Board meeting on the challenges facing BPS teachers, said having Thanksgiving week off has long been popular with students and teachers.

Collucci said he had heard speculation that the decision may have been fueled by staffing shortages, but had not heard from district leadership that more staff than usual had called off during the days before Thanksgiving; principals have the ability to turn down teachers’ requests for time off if too many put in requests for the same day.

“We're glad that the superintendent and School Board are listening to our feedback and attempting to do some activities to improve teacher morale,” Colucci said. “We feel like he listened to the union and took a bold step to try to help the situation.”

Bailey Gallion is the education reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallion at 321-242-3786 or