updated 12/19/2006 6:09:30 PM ET 2006-12-19T23:09:30

A Southern California school district where 92 percent of the students are Latino has extended its winter break an extra week, in part to give immigrant families time to travel home to Mexico and Central America for Christmas.

Officials in Santa Ana, a working-class city 40 miles south of Los Angeles that has long been a magnet for immigrants, say they decided to lengthen the school holiday after finding that many students were absent anyway.

"What we had experienced before is that people would take a little extra time off at Christmas and miss school," Santa Ana Unified School District spokeswoman Susan Brandt said Tuesday. "Some of our families do choose to go back and visit relatives in Mexico. That was the issue."

Brandt said the three-week winter vacation was part of a larger redesign of the district calendar that was intended to put all 60 Santa Ana elementary, middle and high schools on the same schedule.

Not a 'political decision'
She said the travel plans of immigrant families were one factor considered and that teachers also appreciated the longer break. The additional days will be made up at other times in the school year.

"This issue tends to trigger a lot of reaction from different sides but it wasn't a political decision," Brandt said. "This is based on research and looking at ways to keep our attendance levels up," she said.

The school district, which has some 58,000 students, has urged parents in recent years to keep their children in school except for formal holidays. The district gets state funding based on attendance and stands to lose money when children are absent.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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