Schools Take “Balanced Approach”
| Barbara Augsdorfer
The last few notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” have barely faded away, and already schools are preparing for a new school year. It has nothing to do with time that seems to be going faster as people get older – or maybe it does. When the stores start putting out back-to-school supplies this month, rest assured you are not going crazy. Many schools in the Center Grove area have adopted a balanced calendar for the 2013-2014 school year. Remember back in the “olden days” – when there were more cows than people – school ended in early June and didn’t start again until the day after Labor Day? The reason for this was so the children could help on the farm. Well, more city folk are here now, and city kids get bored by the end of June. Summer school was one answer, but not everyone liked summer school. Isn’t that just like regular school with books and homework?
The balanced calendar is not that abomination where students are assigned a “track,” are in school for three months and off for one, sometimes with only a week’s break before starting the next grade. Instead the balanced calendar is three two-week breaks interspersed throughout the year. Most schools start in early August, take a two-week break in October, a short break for Thanksgiving, two weeks off for Christmas and New Year, a two-week break in late March/early April, and then summer break is all of June and July. Many school districts throughout Indiana such as Indianapolis Public Schools, Brownsburg, and Warren Township have adopted the balanced calendar. According to a recent article in The Indianapolis Star, Warren Township Schools have been on the balanced calendar for three years and have started to see improvements in its ISTEP scores.
Pros & Cons
Yes, the balanced calendar takes some getting used to, and there are some pros and cons to it. One academic benefit is that with the two-week breaks, students who need help in a certain subject can get it from their teachers before getting too far behind. In addition to extra help, schools also take the opportunity to offer enrichment courses for students who want the extra challenge. Teachers believe that with the shorter breaks, students retain more, and time is not wasted reteaching concepts that may have been forgotten between June and September. One disadvantage of the balanced calendar is that many of the buildings are in constant use, limiting access for cleaning, painting, and other maintenance duties. Childcare can also be an issue, but many schools offer extended care/camps when school is out.
In 2013-2014, Center Grove Community Schools (centergrove.k12.in.us), Greenwood Christian School (greenwoodchristian.com), and Saints Francis & Clare Catholic School (francisandclare.org) are using the balanced calendar. Greenwood Christian Academy (gcak12.org) is adopting a modified balanced calendar according to Principal Bruce Peters. “We take just a one-week fall break, one-week spring break, two weeks for Christmas, and school ends before Memorial Day,” says Peters. “The majority of our kids are involved in activities in school, and even on break, kids still have to come to their activities. We looked at church schedules and mission trips and also considered [how a balanced calendar] can be an inconvenience to families.”
For Center Grove schools and Greenwood Christian School, the decision to adopt the balanced calendar was the result of a community survey taken prior to the 2012-2013 school year. Most of the respondents were for such a change. During the breaks, Greenwood Christian School offers enrichment classes and camp. Saints Francis & Clare Catholic School offers “Wolf Adventures Camp” during its fall and spring breaks. There’s really no time for students to be bored.
All Schools Not “Balanced”
Two local private high schools with ties to the Center Grove community still adhere to a more traditional schedule: Lutheran High School (lhsi.org) begins classes on August 7, and Roncalli High School (roncalli.org) begins classes on August 12. Both schools take a Friday-Monday break in the fall and a similar break in February (which doubles as “make-up snow days”). Both schools will finish their academic year before Memorial Day. “A whole school change to the balanced calendar must show the projection of adding strength to our school’s mission,” says Michael Brandt, Lutheran High School’s Head of School. “At this time, we do not feel that this calendar shift will positively affect our mission to prepare students for Christian life while providing academic excellence.”
However, if a student can’t wait until August to start school, maybe Center Grove High School’s online “Global Campus” is the answer. Online classes are also offered during the school year to avoid scheduling conflicts. You can read more about the Global Campus in this month’s cover article. Dare we say, life will be “balanced”?
Balanced or not, here comes the first day of school.