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Answer Line: Why school districts' Christmas schedules can vary -- and often do

Oct. 13, 2017 at 11:14 p.m.


QUESTION: Why did the area school districts make the Christmas break wait until Dec. 23 to start? Who made this awful decision?

ANSWER: I checked with the four Longview school districts — Longview, Pine Tree, Spring Hill and Hallsville — and found Longview and Hallsville are doing what you mentioned while Pine Tree and Spring Hill start their Christmas break earlier, the week before Christmas. School calendars can have lots of variations from district to district, but they're set within the parameters of state requirements for when school may start each year — although different rules might apply to different districts — and how much time students must spend in the classroom.

I'll use the Longview and Pine Tree districts as example. The Longview ISD calendar has students in school through Dec. 22. They return to school Jan. 8. Pine Tree students are out beginning Dec. 18 and return to school Jan. 3.

The districts create the calendars with input from staff members about holidays and other factors, and, because the calendar must be presented to the school board, there are opportunities for public input.

"This process is usually a three-month process (November-January) before the board approves the upcoming calendar in February or March," said Pine Tree Superintendent T.J. Farler.

Teachers, staff and administrators wanted the semester to end before Christmas break, so students could take their exams before the holidays.

"Teachers also requested an early release on the last day for the first semester and the last day of the second semester. Our teachers and staff requested more time prior to the Christmas holiday rather than have the additional days in the first week of January," Farler said. "The other major consideration when developing our school calendar is that the local school districts schedule spring break the same week in March. We work collaboratively with the other school districts in Region 7 so we schedule spring break the same week."

Longview school district spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross said each district builds its calendar to work best for their students, but districts will view that differently.

"Yes, we get out later than some of the other districts for Christmas, but we also take a full week for Thanksgiving where other districts don't. In order to do so and balance out the year, we have to start our holiday a little later," she said.

The district also was trying to even out the number of weeks in each semester, she said.

Q: Not many people are as pretty as you are without hair. (You better print that.) May I ask why you are taking chemo for Stage I cancer? I worked for doctors for 26 years, and I never heard of this.

A: After my diagnosis, a number of women reached out to me to share their breast cancer stories. What I've learned is breast cancer treatment takes different paths depending mostly on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. I know several women whose Stage I treatment has followed the same path as mine.

Biopsy results of a woman's cancer tell doctors a lot about the best treatment

My tumor was 1.2 centimeters, which is small. I had a lumpectomy and, as typical during these surgeries, what's known as the sentinel node was removed and tested for cancer. Thankfully, my cancer hadn't spread so I only had the one lymph node removed. Many women have more.

The biopsy of my tumor, though, showed it had a couple of indicators that told doctors it likes to get out and travel and come back for another visit. For instance, my tumor was what's known as "HER2/neu positive." Information from the the National Cancer Institute says, "This type of breast cancer may grow more quickly and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body." A couple of other findings from my tumor sent a similar message.

My tumor also showed it was at least partly driven by female hormones, so, at some point I'll start taking hormone blocking medication.

Here's the bottom line: My oncologist told me that if I stopped after surgery and did nothing else, there would be a 20 percent to 30 percent chance my cancer would come back. If I do chemotherapy, radiation and medication as directed, that drops to about 10 percent.

If you'd like to read more, here's a good web site from the National Cancer Institute: cancer.gov/types/breast/patient/breast-treatment-pdq.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.

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