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Fulford Proposes ‘Rhythm and Rest’ Calendar: Two Additional Days Off

The decision to lengthen the 2007 – 2008 school year has become a lively topic of discussion in the school community for both students and faculty. Shawn Fulford, Instructor in Math and house counselor at Eaton Cottage, is proposing an additional change to the academic calendar: an extra three-day weekend in both the fall and spring terms. This proposal of two additional days off may seem insignificant, but Fulford feels that it would be beneficial for everyone in the Andover community. Appropriately dubbed the “Rhythm and Rest” calendar, Fulford’s plan allows for a break every three to four weeks, giving a “rhythm” to the school year. Fulford believes that days off are vitally important at a boarding school. When asked what motivated her to propose these changes, she said, “A national survey of boarding schools showed that stress-like symptoms peak every three to four weeks.” She continued, “Another study showed that the creative part of the brain needs down-time to thrive! It’s really important for everyone to have a break.” In response to the changes the administration has already decided, such as lengthening the school year, the faculty is split into two camps, according to Fulford. One side thinks the number of school days should not be extended at all, while the other side supports the change. Fulford does not oppose a longer school year, but she feels that in order to balance out the extra days of school, more three-day weekends need to be added. “I teach all of my classes that our school year is a marathon and we must take water breaks. It is not a sprint, but many people treat it that way,” she said. The 2007-2008 school year will have 158 school days, including the “rhythm and rest” days if the proposal is approved. The current 2006-2007 school year has 142 school days. Fulford has also received a lot of positive feedback from the faculty. “They really like the idea of the extra two days,” she said. Although she has not received any administrative decision on her proposal so far, she has not heard any negative comments or opposition to her plan. More days off from school is not a new topic for consideration. “When the extended school year was first proposed, part of the new calendar included ‘spacer days’ to give people a break. Somehow that idea has gotten lost, which is one reason that I proposed ‘Rhythm and Rest’ days off,” Fulford said. Typically, when a Jewish holidays falls on a school day in the fall, students are given a school day off. However, there is no scheduled day off next year because the holidays fall on the weekend. She continues, “Everyone appreciates the day off after the first three intense weeks of school. …[because there is no scheduled day off], my proposal calls for missing Monday, Oct. 10th.” There is already a draft of next year’s academic calendar posted on PAnet, but because it is still tentative and has yet to be completed, Fulford believes it will be simple for the plan to be approved. The proposal still has to pass through the Senior Administrative Council, which makes the decisions concerning the academic calendar, before being accepted. “I think it is vitally important that everyone at Andover have down time to recuperate, get caught up, and rest,” Fulford said, with great enthusiasm for her proposal. “My priority is giving kids and faculty the breaks they need in order to be the best learners and the happiest people.”