By Dustin Shipman BSSD Superintendent

“The Ram’s Horn” is a regular column by Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman, offering news and insight from the district.

The New Year is upon us and we’ve resumed our work after a restful holiday break. As we start a new semester, I’d like to reflect on the importance of time away from the school for everyone in the district, whether it’s vacation or even the weekends.

The traditional school year in Montana – and most states – is approximately 180 days. During that time, students are in school five days a week for an average of seven hours daily. They typically work an additional one to two hours at home, so that’s a conservative estimate of 1600 hours spent on school-related tasks.

Add extra-curricular pursuits and a student may be engaged in an additional 12 hours of school-related activity per week. From kindergarten through 12th grade, we expect a lot of our kids and teachers, so extended holiday breaks and weekends are necessary for a number of reasons.

Families need time to be families. Throughout the school year we don’t have many opportunities to take our kids skiing, go to a movie, or to lounge around all day together. Family time results in healthy kids, and healthy kids tend to have great academic outcomes and create a positive school culture.

Kids also need time to be kids. During the school year, students have limited opportunities to exist in an unstructured environment. Breaks from school allow them to be flexible in how they spend their time to enjoy snow forts, snowball wars, impromptu ski or sled races, and other activities with peers that shape relationships they’ll have for the rest of their lives.

Lastly, the teachers and faculty also need time to regroup. Our district is a very busy place and when the students are on a break, there are many things that can be done. Teachers are able to take a deep breath, reflect on what has been done so far and make the necessary adjustments to improve for the coming week or semester.

I hope you had a great holiday season and were able to spend quality time with friends and family doing the things you love. At the Big Sky School District we look forward to an exciting 2016 and beyond!