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Halloween Parties vs. Student Learning: What Do You Think, Rochester?

Read how one Rochester school has restructured the way it celebrates Halloween.

Where should schools draw the line between work and play? Between classrooms and costumes?

It's a question at least one Rochester school community is facing this Halloween: students at Meadow Brook Elementary School in Rochester Hills will not be parading through their school in costume Wednesday as in years' past. Instead of the annual daytime Halloween parade and party, students were invited to dress in costume for the school's fall social on Friday night.

Meadow Brook Principal Maria Etienne explained the change in a recent letter to parents that was shared with Rochester Patch.

"This celebration takes away a good portion of the day’s instruction, minutes and hours that are precious to our students," Etienne stated. "We at Meadow Brook are advocates for student learning and quality teaching in a safe and caring environment.

"A student is the most important person in my school. ... As a result the focus of our school is on service and excellence, emphasizing the importance of teaching and learning."

Meadow Brook students were invited to dress in their Halloween costumes for a fall social last Friday night. The event included a parade and music. 

But some parents were upset about the change to the long-standing tradition.

"Meadow Brook Elementary will be the only school in the district that will be doing absolutely nothing on Halloween during the school day," said parent Amy Wendt.

Wendt said more than 90 parents signed a petition asking for a compromise: they acknowledged that giving up two hours of classroom time for a parade and party was too much and asked for a costume parade only.

"Having the Halloween parade during the school day gives the kids something to look forward to, creating a positive environment for learning," parents wrote in a letter to Etienne. "Having the Halloween parade keeps a long standing tradition at Meadow Brook Elementary. Traditions are very important as they give the school an identity."

The Rochester school is not alone in the cancellation of daytime Halloween festivities. A school district in suburban Chicago made headlines this month when its school board backed the superintendent's decision to ban Halloween parties at some schools. Three Skokie-Morton Grove District 69 schools will not have Halloween parties this year; the superintendent cited concerns the district has not made progress in certain testing areas and wanted learning to be the focus. Almost 500 parents signed a petition to keep the parties. 

Last year, several Muskegon-area schools replaced Halloween celebrations with shorter fall festivals; one school even made health and fitness - rather than candy - the focus of the event.

And a decision to ban Halloween costumes at an Oregon school led Fox News to headine a report: "Schools Declare War on Halloween."

Etienne stated that she plans to send a survey to all families who attended the fall social to get parent feedback for future celebrations. "I promise you that parents' voices will be heard upon the return of the survey," she stated in her letter to parents.

What do you think? Should schools explore other ways to celebrate occasions like Halloween? 

Editor's note: To read comments on this story, you must be logged in to Patch.

Susan M. November 01, 2012 at 01:15 PM
This is yet another of a long history of knee jerk decisons during her tenure at MBE. We were at MBE when the then principal greeted students in the hall with open arms. A principal who used the Halloween party as an opportunity for team building as her teachers dressed in a common theme. A principal who worked with and communicated with parents. A principal who saw play as opportunities for learning. I have a student who is excelling at cyberschool through the Waterford schools and on a tough day spends 4 hours on her studies. The problem isn't the precious little time the students are in school, but rather how effective their time is used. I wonder when the district will start listening to parents about their frustrations with Mrs. E that have been ongoing since she started and only quiet as their kids age out, only to be replaced by the incoming parents.
Marie T November 01, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Please contact your state representatives, the Dept. of Education, and the companies which are profiting from testing your children. Learning enviroment has been set by people who are not educators. I am concerned about the pressure that we are putting on our children. I do not blame the school when they make these types of decisions.
Marie T November 01, 2012 at 08:44 PM
In the post to which I replied, you were talking about the parade "That the principal cancelled the parade and class parties for Halloween at MB yet other kids within the district are able to celebrate DURING the SCHOOL DAY". I was replying to that information. Again, I will state as I did in a prior post: "Please contact your state representatives, the Dept. of Education, and the companies which are profiting from testing your children. Learning enviroment has been set by people who are not educators. I am concerned about the pressure that we are putting on our children. I do not blame the school when they make these types of decisions." Did you complain when the second recess was taken from students during budget cuts years ago? Lastly, I did not know that you were not a parent at MBE. Do you think others are not concerned about all students? Just because I did not use all capitals for "all" doesn't mean I am not concerned about student learning and growth.
Brenda Bicknell November 02, 2012 at 11:07 AM
How sad! So much pressure being put on kids today. No time to be kids. Celebrations like Halloween are part of growing up. Kids should be kids. Stopping Halloween and other holiday celebrations at U Hills has been a bad choice. Bad for the students, parents and staff. I hope MBE sees the light and goes back to the traditional way of celebrating. Long live the Haloween parade and having alittle fun.
Cheryl November 03, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Having seen the students (and parents and alumni) at the PTA Fall Harvest event and during the school day on Halloween, I can exhale and know that the children did not miss out on Halloween fun at MB. One treat was seeing many Dads in costume and older sibs return. The emotional response in some comments is fueled by misinformation. MB is not the only school to move (not cancel) the parade to the evening, the decision was a majority staff vote that the Principal then supported, the students dressed up on Halloween day in holiday colors, and parent views were aired during a PTA meeting. The Principal is being villified for supporting teachers and PTA members who wanted to try a different way of celebrating. We can hope that the parents who did not sway the decision in their favor were still models of good citizenship for their children.

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