Seymour Community School Corp. officials have long discussed the idea of switching from the district’s current traditional school calendar to a balanced calendar that would shorten summer breaks and add longer breaks during the school year.
Some have been in favor of the proposal, and others have been against it, but the idea has never passed a vote.
At the Nov. 14 school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Brandon Harpe presented a calendar for the next three school years. A committee of teachers, administrators and support staff helped create the calendar.
Some of the things the committee decided were important were starting school on a Thursday to give students a couple of days to learn procedures before starting in on curriculum the following Monday, finishing school before Memorial Day and balancing the year so there are 90 days in each semester.
“The committee decided to move forward with a calendar corresponding to the one we have used since 2015,” Harpe said. “The feedback that we have received is that our calendar is working for our students, our staff and the community.”
The board is scheduled to vote on the three-year calendar at the Dec. 19 meeting.
At least one school board member thinks it’s time to revisit the idea of having a balanced calendar and wants to open up a dialogue on the issue with parents, teachers and the community.
“I don’t think people know they can have input on this,” trustee Jeff Joray said.
Joray said he has been approached by some who would like to see the calendar changed.
A balanced calendar would give students a full week off in the fall. Right now, Seymour students and staff get two days off for fall break in October with an additional day off during Oktoberfest and three days off for Thanksgiving in November.
“The biggest attraction is having a full week off at fall break,” Joray said.
To get a full week off in the fall, there would have to be some give and take, though, he added.
“We would have to give up the Friday for Oktoberfest, and we might have to start a day earlier or go a day later,” he said.
If no changes are made, the first day of school for the 2018-19 school year is set for Aug. 9. It will be Aug. 8 in 2019-20 and Aug. 6 in 2020-21.
Harpe said there could be legislation approved in 2018 that would mandate a later start date and also the timing of standardized tests that would impact the 2019-20 and 2020-21 calendars.
Joray said he spoke with Brownstown Central Community School Corp. Superintendent Greg Walker about having a week off in the fall and was told it works well for that community, and parents, students and teachers want it to stay that way.
Trustee Nancy Franke said whatever decision is made, it should be in the best interest of students, not adults. She said vacations should not be a priority over education.
“Our priority is the students,” she said.
But Joray said parents know what’s best for their kids and should be able to make that decision.
Franke, who teaches at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Columbus, said Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is moving back to a traditional calendar, very similar to Seymour’s, after having implemented a balanced calendar in 2012.
Original thoughts behind a balanced calendar were the brainchild of education reformers who thought providing a longer break between quarters would allow for school districts to offer remedial type courses for students who needed additional support, Franke said.
“The problem with that philosophy was that there just was not the finances available to make such an ideology come to fruition,” she said. “It was also believed that a balanced calendar would help with learning and would raise test scores, which have now proven to be incorrect.”