PHILIPSBURG–Some Milton Peters College (MPC) students wrote Education Minister Wycliffe Smith requesting a three-day extension of their Christmas holiday break, so that they can return to school on Monday, January 7, instead of Wednesday, January 2 as has been scheduled.
Education Minister Wycliffe Smith, who said he had received the correspondence on Tuesday, has denied the request.
Smith told reporters at the Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday that while he applauded the students for making the request and for letting their voices be heard, the request cannot be granted and the Christmas break for all schools with the exception of the schools under the Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education (FAVE), will remain from December 17, 2018, to January 1, 2019.
He said school vacation schedules are created three years in advance. When Smith took the decision to not grant the students’ request he considered that the Christmas vacation schedule had been made available three years ago and had been provided to school boards at the time. All school boards were invited to give their feedback to ensure that the schedules were accurate and feasible and had been approved by all school boards before they were communicated to the public.
He said also that everyone will return to work after the holidays on January 2, including family members and teachers. “This is one of the reasons why the request was nullified.”
He said also that since the vacation schedule was accepted and approved three years ago, many have already made plans for the Christmas vacation, including those who will be travelling and have their confirmed tickets in their hands. “Other than FAVE, no other school board has asked for an adjustment in schedule,” he said.
He encouraged the students to continue voicing their concerns and proposing solutions on significant issues affecting the community. He invited young leaders to meet with him, as he said he believes they have a positive contribution to make.
Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) had earlier called for all schools in the country to reopen a week later than scheduled in January 2019, after the Christmas holidays. However, this request also was turned down. Both sections of St. Maarten Academy have been granted permission to reopen one week later than scheduled, prompting WITU to make a similar request for all schools across the board.
Smith had said in an earlier statement that FAVE, had requested a specific change in the vacation schedule to enable Academy’s academic section to move back to its original location on L.B. Scott Road. Academy’s academic section has been located at its sister campus in Ebenezer since its school was destroyed during Hurricane Irma in September last year.
“So FAVE’s request was unique, specific and was related to the academic section moving from Ebenezer back to its campus on L.B. Scott Road. When taking the decision not to issue a general vacation adjustment, I also took into consideration the fact that the vacation schedule was made public since October 2015 (thus, three years ago) and at that same time had also been provided to school boards,” Smith had said at the time.