To book, or not to book, that is the question. Spring is quickly approaching even if we can’t see it through the gray, winter skies. Warmer weather and color will inevitably greet us, but what are we going to do when it arrives? Stay home or travel?
Spring 2020 was abruptly interrupted, and there’s no need to specify why because we all remember the reason. However, this spring has the potential to be better with more and more people receiving vaccinations; but, then again, could it be the same as last year? There are still risks and uncertainty surrounding what the coming months will present. Large gatherings are still discouraged for the foreseeable future, despite the more relaxed attitude the population has fallen into. COVID-19 numbers are still rising and breaking records in Arkansas, so what does all of this mean for students’ and parents’ beloved spring break?
The hospitality and tourism industry arguably took one of the hardest hits of the pandemic, but they apparently plan on coming back swinging. If you search “travel spring break 2021,” you will see a plethora of travel websites offering all-inclusive packages and waived fees for spring travel. These enticing deals advertise dream vacations at costs lower than what we’re used to – tropical getaways listed for $300 per head definitely do not sound half bad. Unfortunately, the risk of travel during this time is still a real issue that potential travelers must consider before planning vacations in the coming months. Are vaccines going to be administered to more of the general population prior to peak travel seasons? Which destinations are most at risk for COVID-19 spikes? Which form of travel is safest right now? Cruise and air lines, resorts and hotels have reduced fees and booking costs. In an attempt to stay in business, it is understandable that there have been alterations in what used to be costly vacations.
In the past, airlines were notorious for change fees, late booking penalties, cancellation charges etc; but if you have flown recently, you know that most of these charges are no more. No one is certain of what will happen next, and airlines understand this. Flying is more affordable, and due to competition between airline companies, change fees could be a thing of the past even after the pandemic ends. Cruise lines have only recently adjusted their travel health and safety measures, but airlines had to act quickly to make the necessary changes. Masks worn for the duration of flights, select airlines and cities requiring negative tests, no more drink cart and sanitation wipes are the new flying experience for those willing to take the jump.
On March 14, 2020, CDC issued a No Sail Order on all cruise lines preventing any proceeding cruise operations for the safety of crew members and passengers. Cruise ships posed a great risk during the pandemic due to the large number of people isolated together with limited space to spread out or seek treatment. However, as of Oct. 30, 2020, the issue was transitioned to a Conditional Sailing Order. With these new guidelines, cruise lines must have the proper testing laboratories onboard for crew and passenger testing along with proper quarantine procedures enforced. Like some airlines require, crew members and passengers must be tested prior to boarding the ship. The Conditional Sailing Order is in effect until Nov. 2021, or until CDC deems normal operations safe. Carnival Cruise has recently announced an extension on their paused voyages. The website shows trips commencing in early April 2021, but as we have witnessed in the past year, this could also change. Norweigan has advertised greatly discounted trips that shall begin mid-April, while Holland is holding off until May. Royal Caribbean appears to be one of the few sailing in March, when most Arkansas schools schedule their spring break.
School districts statewide have been cautious since the start of the pandemic. Teachers, staff and students are at risk each day they meet. Unfortunately, Arkansas has experienced too many tragic losses as a result of the pandemic – many school related. Arkansas is one of four states that has state-mandated in-class instruction. Most school districts have enforced virtual learning options and designated days to decrease large gatherings and lower chances of contracting the virus. The question of how extended breaks affect the spread has been circling before schools even resumed in August. Not knowing where students go during breaks, who they are exposed to and how they monitor their health and symptoms prior to returning to class are only a few risks of students leaving their school bubble for long periods of time. To help limit the time students spend out of school, some educational institutions have altered the traditional academic calendar.
Universities and lower level schools across the country have made adjustments to how their spring break will be conducted for the Spring 2021 term. Some have cancelled the break altogether with no moves to make up for it, but some have taken the days that would have made up the break and spread them through the semester. The University of Arkansas is one of those that have dismissed spring break for the term in favor of providing students with mini-breaks. “Our traditional weeklong Spring Break holiday will be split into smaller intermittent breaks throughout the semester to limit travel and reduce the chance of the virus being spread by those who may have traveled or returned from other locations,” says Mark Rushing, associate vice chancellor for university relations. “Those smaller breaks will occur on the following days: February 22-23, March 25-26 and April 2. This decision was made after close consultation with students and faculty who agreed with the approach. Even if individuals still travel during the long weekends, we anticipate it would be a different type or distance of travel than a full week would allow. We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff as we navigate the challenges posed by this pandemic.”
The mental health of students should always be a top priority for schools and staff. The pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of most, and those already dealing with mental illnesses have felt each and every implication. Students are vulnerable to the stress of education and the expectations from peers, family and themselves. The additional stress of transitioning to online classes, lost opportunities and being overly aware of daily health heightens anxiety and increases depression. Student burnout is an incredibly real issue that negatively affects performance in school and personal life. Spring Break is loved not only for the opportunity to travel, but also for the breath it provides from the constant brain activity plaguing overrun students.
What do you think: Should spring break be cancelled?