Barnum School debates spring break, prom plans

The topic of spring break has been a heated discussion in the district for the past several years.

File: Barnum High School.jpg
Barnum High School. (Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / News Tribune)

Barnum Public Schools continues to mull whether it should schedule a spring break. The issue has spurred debate in the community.

The topics fueled lively discussion Tuesday, March 16, when brought before the School Board for suggestions. Barnum is scheduled to have spring break March 22-26.

Some residents have voiced the desire to have no spring break, while others deem it necessary.

“For two years, it’s been nothing but a fight,” Chair Beth Schatz said. “Not everybody is going to be happy no matter what we do.”

Student athletes and coaches have said they are frustrated with the obligation to continue holding practices and competitions, despite being on a scheduled break. Other families say they simply want the school year to be done in late May instead of early June.


On the other hand, many students and teachers have expressed the need for a break in order to rejuvenate and spend time with family.

This debate eventually led to the proposal of an alternating schedule, with spring break occurring every other year in alignment with band and choir trips.

The three options come up almost every year when setting the academic calendar, according to district officials.
“We just need to make a decision,” Clerk Paul Coughlin said, explaining that multiple groups of people have tried and failed to determine a permanent solution over the years.

Schatz suggested going with the alternating schedule, explaining that families will take vacations regardless of whether there is a designated spring break.

She noted that basketball practices continue throughout the school's winter break, and that practicing during breaks is a part of being in school athletics.

Board Director Louis Bonneville suggested pausing sports during spring break as a possible solution. He said student athletes shouldn’t pay a price for going on vacation with their family.

Several board members suggested creating surveys and speaking with teachers and students.

According to Superintendent Mike McNulty, the school community also appears split on the issue, with most elementary staff and students showing a desire to have spring break, while the high school remains “indifferent.”


The board plans to finalize a decision for future years at a later date, with a soft vote showing the majority leaning toward an annual spring break with a sports hiatus during that time.

Prom gets the go-ahead

Spring break is not the only major event on the horizon for the Bombers.

Along with spring, comes the planning of activities such as prom — a tradition that was abruptly halted in spring 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Now, the district is planning to move forward and host an event within state guidelines for juniors and seniors to attend.

Gov. Tim Walz recently loosened restrictions, so venues are now permitted to open at 50% capacity, with a limit of 250 people.

Prom committee adviser Alycia Dammer said this change will allow Barnum to host an indoor prom in May, unless guidelines are tightened again.

Board members offered support for scheduling prom, and committee adviser Kathy Parker reiterated that all COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed at the event.

“It’s great that we can have something,” Schatz said.


The committee has been deciding between scheduling prom at Northland Country Club in Duluth or at the Carlton County Fairgrounds in Barnum.

The quoted prices per person are $55 for the country club and $30 for the fairgrounds.

Dammer said a survey has been sent to students eligible to attend prom to gauge opinions so the committee can make a decision by next week.

The committee is also looking at options for a post-prom event that night.

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