End of an era: Harvest break coming to an end in SAD 70

12 years ago
By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

    HODGDON — Much like it is in other school districts, harvest recess may be a thing of the past for SAD 70 students starting next year.

    The SAD 70 school board, Monday evening, discussed harvest recess and a proposed piece of legislation, LD 1865, which would require the district to more closely coordinate its calendar with other Region Two districts — SAD 29 (Houlton), SAD 14 (East Grand) and RSU 50 (Katahdin and Southern Aroostook).


    If the proposed bill is approved by the Legislature, each school district may have only five “dissimilar” days in their calendar, as mandated by the state Department of Education. In previous years, that number has been nine dissimilar days. In the past, SAD 29 and SAD 70 also received waivers from the calendar rule to allow for harvest break. Under the new plan, no waivers would be allowed.

    SAD 70 Superintendent Bob McDaniel told board members that a one-year extension was included in the language of the new bill, which means that both SAD 70 and SAD 29 could continue the harvest recess for one more year, if they so choose.

    “This law will not take effect until 2013-14,” McDaniel said. “I know there are also some representatives from Aroostook County who are trying to put an amendment in the bill to allow a waiver for harvest recess.”

    School districts who do not comply with the bill and align their calendars accordingly would be subject to a stiff penalty from the state.

    “According to the law, if you don’t (align your calendars), the district will not receive funding,” McDaniel said. “But we do have a reprieve of one year. So, what I need to know from you, is do you want me to go ahead and have harvest break for another year? Or do you want to align your calendar now and be done with it?”

    According to a survey done at the school, only five students in SAD 70 participated in harvest-related work during the break in 2011.

    Board member Margaret Scott said she thought it “made sense” to align their school calendar now. Others agreed.

    “I think it is time to do away with harvest,” said board member Angie Howland. “To continue to have a week off for just five kids? This is long overdue.”

    Board member Joel Oliver, who is a potato farmer, asked if the district was still going to allow those students who wanted to work in the harvest to have the time off from school, provided their grades were sufficient. In year’s past, high school students that had an acceptable grade-point average were allowed to spend an extra 10 days working in the field after their week of harvest recess was up. On days that it rained, though, those students were required to report to school.

    “It is very hard to replace the help,” Oliver said. “We don’t have to pull the trigger on harvest right now, right? The high school kids are dependable and hard working. When you hire someone off the street, there is usually a reason they are not working.”

    With no harvest recess, a student could potentially have up to 15 days of schoolwork to make up.

    Bernadette Willette, the district’s guidance director, stated she felt that 15 days was an “awful lot of work to ask a student to catch up on.”

    The general consensus from the board was for McDaniel to move forward with creating a 2012-13 school calendar that did not include a harvest break. McDaniel said he would bring two school calendars to the next school board meeting on May 14 for the board to consider.