NYC schools have a 1-day week before winter break. This student is trying to change that.

A young boy wearing a white and tan t-shirt sits on a park bench and smiles for a portrait. There is a blue, green and yellow playground in the background, three benches and some green trees.
Isaac Regnier, a Brooklyn seventh grader, launched a petition asking the city to strike Monday, Dec. 23 classes from the school calendar and make it a day off. (Image courtesy of Amanda Regnier)

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Next school year’s oddly timed winter recess gives New York City schools a one-day week before break — a recipe for sparse student and staff attendance.

In fact, Brooklyn seventh grader Isaac Regnier thought that having class on Monday, Dec. 23 before the break from Dec. 24 to Thursday, Jan. 2, 2025 was so illogical that he decided to take action.

After his calls and emails to Mayor Eric Adams and schools Chancellor David Banks went unanswered, the 12-year-old from Bay Ridge, started a petition asking the Education Department to “fix the NYC schools calendar” and cancel the Dec. 23 classes. Instead, he proposed moving the last day of school from Thursday, June 26 to Friday, June 27.

In one week, Isaac’s petition garnered 5,000 signatures.

“I thought it was dumb that we had a one-day week of school,” said Isaac, who attends Brooklyn’s Seth Low I.S. 96. “The attendance will definitely be low, I swear.”

Under state law, New York City schools must be in session for at least 180 days or risk losing state funding. Those calculations are taken into account when the Education Department sets the calendar. And officials didn’t appear to be swayed by Isaac’s petition.

“Every school day, our young people are taught valuable academic lessons, receive critical mentorship, and invaluable support from trusted and caring adults,” Education Department spokesperson Jenna Lyle wrote in a statement. “We encourage all students and families to ensure their child’s attendance on December 23.”

But there is precedent for tweaking days off after the calendar has been published.

When the city scheduled school for Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, a group of teachers petitioned to get it canceled and were successful. The teachers behind that effort found old school calendars showing that schools were closed on at least four other occasions when Dec. 23 fell on a Monday.

Those changes, however, were made when the city had some more leeway by building in potential snow days.

As the city has added several holidays, including Eid, Lunar New Year, and Diwali, the city has also nixed snow days, instead opting for remote learning during inclement weather.

Still, even as the calendar has become more crowded with days off, the city ended up working with the teachers union to amend the original calendar for this school year and add four more days off. That followed complaints from educators and families about several religious holidays missing from this year’s calendar.

The teachers union did not immediately respond for comment on Isaac’s petition.

New York City families and educators have been given plenty of time to plan for next school year. Though the department typically hasn’t released the upcoming school year calendar until the preceding spring, after a few years of delayed calendars and loud complaints, the Education Department released its calendars for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years early.

But that hasn’t stopped complaints about the calendar.

Isaac is somewhat of a calendar aficionado. He’s already memorized next year’s days off and can point out the various quirks. Next school year, for example, there are no days off in September since the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah is later than usual, he pointed out.

He also can pinpoint the day of the week a certain date will fall on in the future or the past.

Isaac looks forward to learning every day at his school and has only missed three days this year, but when asked if he planned to go on Monday, Dec. 23, he said he’d probably not attend so he can travel. His family typically visits friends and relatives in California and Oregon during the winter break.

“People are so excited for Christmas,” he said. “Why would you want to spend one more day at school?”

Amy Zimmer is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat New York where she often writes about the school calendar. Contact Amy at azimmer@chalkbeat.org.

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