Montclair students are one step closer to worry-free holiday breaks.

On Monday, the Montclair Board of Education passed a first reading of an amended homework policy that would liberate students at all levels in the district from having to complete school assignments while on vacation breaks.

The action comes following a September proposal from the board’s two student representatives. In urging the change in two separate amendments, Justin Comini, a Montclair High School senior, said the policy would reduce burnout and improve mental health. Comini was joined by fellow representative, Jacob Kugelmass, in proposing the amendments that would not require students to hand in assignments on the first day of class following a break. But teachers would still be permitted to set a deadline for the second class.

“I think we can all agree that Thanksgiving break, winter break and spring break are all times for students to be spending time with their families,” Comini said at the September meeting, “regardless of the level of classes that they are in,” 

A new approach to homework would alter a policy that has given teachers latitude in doling out vacation assignments. 

“Weekend and holiday homework is discouraged,” the existing policy reads. “Make-up work, long-term projects and research papers may be assigned over periods that include weekend and/or holidays.”

The first amendment adds the following proviso: “However, if any homework, make-up work or long-term projects are assigned over an extended break from school including, but not limited to, Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break or summer break, same may not be due until the second meeting of any class and/or within three days following such break, whichever is lesser. ”

The second amendment would modify a policy that instructs teachers to be aware of how religious observances may affect a student’s ability to complete homework assignments. The amendment adds that a reasonable extension “no less than one day/24 hours” shall be given without consequences surrounding a religious observance. The length of the extension had not yet been defined in the policy.

The amendments will likely receive a second reading and a vote at either the next board meeting on Feb.1, or at the following meeting on Feb. 22, board President Allison Silverstein said Monday.

The possibility that a new homework policy might really happen seems surreal to Comini.

“Knowing that this is something that students wanted and then having the board take that into consideration and action is an incredible feeling,” Comini said in an email. “Students need these breaks to relax. This is a huge step forward in the growing global epidemic of mental distress & student burnout and I'm happy that our board recognizes that.” 

Comini sounded like someone who was living every student’s dream of a stretch of time without having to think about school, using words like “eternally grateful.”

“On a personal note, as a senior, this has been a pleasure for me to know that this policy may not change for many years and that I have truly left my small mark on the district,” Comini said.  

Kugelmass did not respond to an email seeking his reaction.

When Comini and Kugelmass proposed the change in September, they noted that the district would not be the first in the state to relax homework policies. Districts around the state and country already have the policy in place, Comini said.

The Wayne school district does not allow homework or long-term projects due within three days after winter and spring break. The district’s policy does not address Thanksgiving break. 

Wayne also has Wellness Weekends, weekends throughout the school year during which students have no “obligations to the school district.” That means “no homework, no tests or quizzes, and no due dates scheduled directly before or after” the weekends, according to a letter from Wayne’s superintendent to parents.

Other districts in the state, including Princeton, Verona and West Windsor-Plainsboro, also offer homework-free weekends and/or holidays throughout the year.