School holidays in the United States

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School holidays in the United States
Observed bySchools in the United States

In the United States, the academic year typically has about 180[1] school days for K-12, running from the early (Northern Hemisphere) fall to early summer. Colleges and universities often have shorter years. School holidays (also referred to as vacations, breaks, and recess) are the periods during which schools are closed.

Public schools for grades K-12 typically have the following vacations and holidays:

  • All federal and state holidays.
  • Thanksgiving Holiday - Fourth Thursday in November. Usually Black Friday is also a holiday marked "Day After Thanksgiving" and the Wednesday before is often a holiday or early-dismissal day. Some schools give students the entire fourth week of November off.
  • Christmas/Holiday break - Typically there are no classes on Christmas Eve and December 23 might be a half-day. The break lasts until the first weekday in January after New Year's Day. In years where January 1 falls on a Sunday (such as 2017), New Year's Day is federally celebrated on Monday and classes begin on Tuesday, January 3. Some areas include the entirety of the Christmas or New Year's week in the vacation.
  • Fall break - (not taken in all parts of the country) one to two weeks in September or October, sometimes coinciding with Labor Day.
  • Winter break - (not taken in all parts of the country) one week in February or March, sometimes coinciding with Presidents' Day.
  • Spring break - one week in March or April (usually around Easter).
  • Summer break - Around 10–11 weeks, either from the end of May to early August, early June to Mid-August, or the end of June to the day after Labor Day in early September - depending on region and state. Students with disabilities may receive special education services during the summer as mentioned in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The break generally includes Independence Day.
  • Religious holidays such as Good Friday, Jewish holidays, Hindu holidays, Chinese holidays, and Islamic holidays - depending on school demographics.
  • Many public schools also have Teacher's Day Off/In-Service (Convention)/Professional Day 2 or 3 days per year, usually devoted to professional development.

Schools offering summer camp are also off on Independence Day though the regular school year generally includes this holiday as part of the larger summer break.

Most colleges and universities have the following breaks/holidays:

  • Thanksgiving Holiday - End of November (Thanksgiving & Day after, and most often also on Wednesday).
  • Christmas/Holiday & Winter break - December 23 to mid/end of January (winter term classes might be offered after New Year).
  • Spring Break - one week in March or April, usually following Easter or Patriots' Day, and involving warm-weather trip traditions.
  • Summer Break - Early/mid of May to day after Labor day in early September (summer term classes might be offered).
  • Major federal and state holidays (Private may observe religious holidays) (such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day).

Most colleges and universities divide the school year into two semesters. The fall semester often begins the day after Labor Day in early September and runs until mid-December. The spring semester typically starts in the middle or end of January and runs until May. Winter and summer classes might be offered in January and May–August..

Unscheduled days off[edit]

When cars are covered and roads are impassable, closings and cancellations are likely to occur

Weather-related cancellations, such as snow days and hurricane-related closures, can affect school calendars, as can local emergencies such as water main breaks, gas leaks, structural problems, or shootings. Some K-12 districts build in a certain number of expected snow days, though in warmer climates typically none are scheduled. If the expected number is different from the actual number of canceled days, the beginning of summer vacation might be adjusted to keep the school year the same length. If there are too many canceled days, some districts will keep the beginning of summer vacation from moving too far by holding school during a scheduled spring vacation, or by holding school on Saturdays, professional development days, or other scheduled holidays. If the cancellation does reduce the number of days of instruction below the state minimum, the district may decide to simply drop the missed day from the academic year.

Colleges and universities set their own cancellation policies, and typically do not add makeup days, though they also cancel school more rarely, especially for residential campuses.

Where different days have different schedules (e.g. math and English on Mondays, science and art on Tuesdays), the schedule of remaining days might be adjusted to ensure all subjects retain the same number of instructional days per year.

See also[edit]


"School Holidays in the United States." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2016.


  1. ^ "List of school calendar dates for school districts6hu46uh6 in the USA".