By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
PENDLETON, Ind. —
South Madison School Corp. is again considering the balanced calendar — nixed by the school board last year — along with a modified calendar for next year.
The calendar became the topic of discussion during Thursday night’s meeting at Maple Ridge Elementary School, where a group of teachers expressed support.
Heidi Moore said many are nervous about change, but that it’s sometimes needed to become even better.
“We’re not trying to fix something broken,” she said. “We’re trying to make (the schools) better.” She added that teachers are very proud of the district.
Because teachers see the struggles of students daily and what works best for them, she said teacher support should matter and that a calendar change may benefit at-risk students.
Superintendent Joe Buck cited a survey, completed this year, in which 71 percent of teachers lean toward the balanced or modified calendar. Last year, 68 percent were in favor of the balanced calendar.
Unlike the current traditional calendar, the balanced calendar would have three two-week breaks: one each in the fall, winter and spring, with built-in snow days. The modified calendar would be similar, with only a week-long fall break.
Summer would be shorter by two weeks for the balanced calendar and a week shorter for the modified one.
The special education co-op South Madison works with, Hancock Madison Shelby Educational Services, has already gone to the balanced calendar.
“It’s very, very hard for special education teachers to battle these schedules,” said Jenni Pettigrew, a speech pathologist.
The special ed teachers have “flex” schedules, must make up minutes or bring in substitutes. Pettigrew said they want to make sure students get the services needed to succeed.
Alexandria Community Schools are the only district in Madison County currently on the balanced calendar, having started it this year. Superintendent Alice Johnson has said the change has been good for assessing student needs and giving students and faculty time to de-stress.
South Madison board member Amy McGinnis said she would like to see data that the balanced or modified calendar are the way to go.
“There’s not a lot of data that shows it will increase test scores,” Buck admitted. “But there’s not data that says it won’t increase test scores.”
He said it may help those at risk and certainly not hurt or hinder those doing well.
Buck said faculty and students are just always on the “go, go, go” and do feel better and do better after breaks.
“I know we keep using refreshing, but there is a burnout factor,” he said.
Advantages listed for the balanced and modified calendars include increased attendance due to students being able to plan appointments during breaks — Warren Township, which made the switch in 2009-10 ,has been cited as an example — and a decreased need of substitutes, saving money.
Common concerns are the shortening of summer job opportunities, an effect on State Fair participants and an impact on extracurricular activities such as a change in dates of practices and contests.
Like winter break, Buck said fall break would still have practices as decided by coaches.
Other nearby school districts that have moved to a balanced calendar or plan to next year include Mt. Vernon and Noblesville.
The South Madison school board will vote on the 2013-14 calendar during its next meeting Dec. 6.
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