For 10-year-old Royce Oram, the hardest part about going back to school after the long winter break is going to sleep the night before.
“I got used to staying up a little,” Oram said.
Students in the Napa Valley Unified School District returned to their classrooms Monday following three weeks of winter vacation.
Oram, a student at Irene Snow Elementary School, woke up at 6:30 a.m. Monday to get ready for class. By lunchtime, Oram was already feeling tired — and he wasn’t alone.
“They’ve been a little quiet the first day back. They’re a little sleepy,” said Jennifer Knox, who teaches a fourth- and fifth-grade combination class at Snow.
While some kids struggled to get out of vacation mode, Knox said her students “jumped right in” to their Monday assignments, and seemed excited to be back in school.
“I’ve got the best class ever,” Knox said.
The Napa Valley Unified School District has had a three-week winter break since 2005, when the Board of Education made a controversial vote to lengthen the break from two weeks.
For the majority of board members, district finances were a key factor. Many students from immigrant families were absent in December and January because their families visited Mexico during the holidays — a time when work slows down for most farmworkers.
Since state aid was based on daily student attendance, these absences reduced district funds.
Principal MaryAnn Salinger said “a lot” of students from Snow Elementary go to Mexico during the holiday break, but as of Monday, only two or three were still out of town. When the break was only two weeks long, many more kids were absent the first day back to class, Salinger said.
“It’s not as bad now,” she said.
Salinger said she also lets families know that absences cost the district money. Most families, she said, are “pretty respectful of that.”
While many students traveled out of state over the vacation, plenty of others stayed in California.
Disneyland was a popular destination for several students in Knox’s class. Others said they rode the Pony Express at Knotts Berry Farm, went sledding in Tahoe, or finished reading “The Hunger Games” trilogy.
Ivan Morales, 10, spent the break learning to ice skate at the rink in downtown Napa.
“I fell a lot,” Morales said. “But then I got it.”