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January 30, 2013

Chow: Calendar change best for students and faculty

Elwood looking into balanced calendar

ANDERSON, Ind. — Anderson Community Schools recently became the third district in the county to vote in favor of some form of balanced calendar, and Superintendent Felix Chow said it was done with the students and faculty in mind.

With the modified calendar, accepted by the school board earlier this month, there will be one-week fall and spring breaks along with the traditional two-week winter break, giving teachers and students more time to “regroup and refresh,” he said. It’s “not a year-round calendar” and will still have just 180 days of instruction.

“I think the calendar will really give teachers and students more time to slow down, take a breath and come back ready to work hard,” School Board President Jean Chaille said.

But Chow, who proposed the calendar to the board, had another reason for really wanting it.

“The other reason being why I proposed it,” he said, “it will end the first semester before winter break.”

He said the calendar will benefit students and teachers academically by allowing them to finish up first semester lessons before a two-week break. Chaille added students won’t have to relearn studies for midterm exams and teachers won’t have to reteach them when they could be using the time to teach the kids something new instead.

Under the traditional calendar, Anderson schools had to wrap up the semester after break.

There are still a few areas to iron out, such as addressing sport schedules and looking at how partnerships with other schools will be altered. Chow said changes will be minor and that districts are always “juggling to get in sync” with one another. ACS teaches some of Alexandria’s special education and vocational students, for example.

Chaille said it will be an adjustment to begin earlier in August, but that staff have been supportive of the decision.

“(ACS is) making changes, but not drastic changes too quickly,” Chow said.

Now the question becomes, with three of five county school districts having made the switch to a balanced calendar, are Elwood and Frankton-Lapel next?

ACS began talks of a calendar change about a year and a half ago as other districts in the county were looking to make the switch. Alexandria was the first to move ahead with a balanced calendar this year, and South Madison approved a modified balanced calendar similar to Anderson’s just months ago.

Elwood Interim Superintendent Tom Austin said a public forum was held in November to discuss the balanced calendar and that a survey completed by the Teacher Association showed faculty favored the change 2-to-1.

An email account was created to give the public the chance to submit input and he said the district has received about 30 emails thus far, with about 90 percent in favor.

A special meeting to vote on the issue will be held Monday at the administrative office, 1306 N. Anderson St., at 5:30 p.m.

“One way or another, we’ll get closure so we can tackle other issues,” Austin said.

Frankton-Lapel Superintendent Bobby Fields said his district has no plans to switch over to a balanced calendar, noting he hasn’t seen any research to support that it helps students learn more, and that staff and faculty were not in favor of it.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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