The Herald Bulletin

August 1, 2013

For some, school's in and summer's out

By Dani Palmer The Herald Bulletin
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ELWOOD — It may not be fun for students to have their summers cut even shorter than they already are, but they are adjusting well to the balanced calendars that two Madison County school districts have put into place, officials said Wednesday.

Elwood classes began Wednesday with Alexandria students going back to school on Tuesday. Both are ahead of the county’s four other public districts that won’t begin until next week or later.

”It didn’t feel like it should be the first day,” Elwood High School sophomore Haily Gilliam said.

With new Superintendent Tim Smith stepping in, it’s Elwood’s first year on a balanced calendar that gives longer fall, winter and spring breaks of two full weeks. The first semester also started earlier than in recent years.

Many students shared similar views to Gilliam’s: it’s odd to be back so soon, but it’ll be nice to have two-week breaks.

Alexandria-Monroe Intermediate Principal Chris Schnepp said the more frequent breaks let students “come back energized.”

”Kids need breaks,” said Elwood High School Principal David Retherford. “School is harder today than it’s ever been. (Education officials) expect more out of them than ever.”

With national and state standards such as ISTEP+ exams, he said, students have a lot of work on their shoulders. And while it’s too early to truly tell with only a year’s data, Schnepp said, the balanced calendar does appear to benefit students academically — still getting in 180 days class schedule that ran Aug. 1 to June 3 last year. This year’s schedule in Elwood runs from July 30 to May 23.

Acuity test scores were slightly higher last year than the year before, he said, and the students seem more focused.

Alexandria-Monroe Junior/Sr. High School students Bradley Jenson and Madi Myers said the two-week breaks are good for recuperating after nine weeks of lessons. The district made the transition to a balanced calendar in the 2012-13 school year.

But while Myers said the schedule seems to be better for learning, she added many students would like “more of a summer.”

Schnepp said it’s “almost like coming back after Christmas break.” Alexandria and Elwood’s summer breaks were shortened by about two weeks with the balanced calendar.

On the calendar for the second year, though, Schnepp added that Alexandria has adjusted well.

With the exception of a few excused students still on trips with their parents or participating in Indiana State Fair events, he said, attendance has been good.

Elwood Middle School Principal Teresa Boucher and Retherford said there have been a few concerns from parents about the impact of starting sooner, especially with summer activities and sports, but that community response has been generally positive.

In Session School start dates for Madison County and surrounding areas Shenandoah: Aug. 6 Anderson Community Schools: Aug. 7 Anderson Preparatory Academy: Aug. 7 South Madison: Aug. 7 Madison-Grant: Aug. 8 Indiana Christian: Aug. 12 Liberty Christian: Aug. 14 Daleville: Aug. 14 Frankton-Lapel: Aug. 15