Saturday, March 13, 2010

Some heading to beach; others stuck in class

By Nancy Glasscock, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

While Athens High School students Lauren Terry and Leslie Whitfield are enjoying spring break on the beach next week, it’s back to class for students in Decatur City and Lawrence County schools.

Area boards of education scheduled spring break for different weeks, which is a change from previous years when schools had spring break the same week.

While students enjoy an earlier break, the change keeps some families from enjoying the time away from class together.

Terry, a junior, is spending next week in Destin, Fla.

She said she prefers spring break in March.

“It’s warmer in April, but I like getting out earlier,” she said.

Terry said most Athens students don’t seem to mind the earlier break.

Whitfield, a senior, is leaving in the middle of the week for a John Mayer concert in Atlanta before heading to Orange Beach, where she’ll spend the rest of the break.

Whitfield said she is “pumped” about the trip.

“I would rather have it later because it’s hotter, but it’s about time for a break,” she said.

Schools in Lawrence County are out April 12-16. Decatur City Schools are out April 19-23.

Schools in Limestone County, Athens, Morgan County and Hartselle each scheduled spring break Monday through March 19.

Tests a factor

Nancy Brewer, teacher at Leon Sheffield Magnet School, said having spring break in April after accountability testing is an advantage, but does prevent some families from taking trips together.

School officials in Decatur and Lawrence County Schools pushed back spring break to improve accountability scores. Morgan County employees voted on when to have spring break.

Brewer’s husband works in the Madison school system, which has spring break at a different time than Decatur City Schools. One of their children is in preschool and has spring break the same time as Decatur City Schools.

“I understand having it after testing because it gives the kids the continuity instead of having a break,” she said. “But for us personally, it’s kind of disappointing. We don’t go anywhere big, but we would take the kids to the zoo or something relatively close.”

Herb Malone, president of the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, said staggering spring break causes an increase in tourism.

“We have about six weeks of spring break activity stemming from a variety of school and university systems throughout the Southeast and Midwest,” he said. “The benefit that we see from staggered school system breaks is that the activity is spread out over a larger time frame allowing us to accommodate even more guests each week in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area.”

Dana Lent, communications manager for the Panama City Beach (Fla.) Convention and Visitors Bureau, said schools’ decisions to schedule spring break at different times doesn’t seem to have negatively affected tourism there, based on hotel bookings.

Tami Reist, president of the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the staggered spring break doesn’t affect the number of people who stop in Decatur.

For years, the Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association has worked with Alabama Welcome Centers to promote the Pop into Decatur campaign to attract spring breakers from other areas, Reist said.

“What we look at are the individuals who are traveling for their spring break and going to the beach,” she said.

“We encourage them on their way to the beach that they stop over in the Decatur area for their lodging.”

Local spring breaks

•Decatur City Schools: April 19-23
•Lawrence County Schools: April 12-16
•Limestone County: March 15-19
•Athens City: March 15-19
•Morgan County: March 15-19
•Hartselle City: March 15-19

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