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EH board eyes July start date for balanced calendar

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — The balanced calendar is back on the table for Eastern Hancock School Board, and one member wants it to be tweaked.

Tom Younts suggested pushing the first day of school back a week because several families show animals at the Indiana State Fair and struggle getting their kids to both school and Indianapolis.

This is the first school year a balanced calendar has been in place in every school district in Hancock County. In this format, school starts earlier in the summer but includes two-week breaks in the fall and spring.

While the other school boards in the county approved a balanced calendar for both the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years, the EH board has only so far approved it for this year. That means the board must vote on the 2013-2014 calendar at next month’s meeting.

The proposed calendar starts school July 31, 2013 – a date that Superintendent Randy Harris admits may seem especially early because it’s in the month of July. Still, he said it’s a calendar identical to 2012-2013.

“It’s the exact same corresponding date to when we did it this year,” he said “A date is a date, (but) some people are going to say, ‘July?’”

Younts says if school were to start later in August, there would be only a one-week fall break. This year, “two weeks in the fall seems to be a long time,” he said.

Younts pitched the idea as a suggestion from parents who had students in the state fair. He said parents approached him with the concern.

But Harris said teachers found the two-week break in October this year to be refreshing, and students came back recharged and ready to finish the semester.

EHHS German teacher Kevin Adams said those two weeks could be a time for students who are behind to catch up. This year, he said, it “let a lot of people rejuvenate and reload.”

Besides, the students who participate in the state fair are good at managing their school work, EHHS Principal Dave Pfaff added.

“Yes, the kids are motivated because the parents are on them,” Younts replied. “I think it was stressful for the parents.”

Other schools in Hancock County have already set July 31, 2013, as the first day of school next year. Mt. Vernon Superintendent Bill Riggs said the school board approved a balanced calendar for two years, and he doubts the community will have a problem with a July 31 start date.

“It was just as smooth as could be this year (and) people have made the transition,” Riggs said.

But Eastern Hancock struggled last year with approving a balanced calendar. The eastern-most district sends its special education students to Greenfield but its vocational students to New Castle in Henry County. The New Castle district is on a slightly different calendar than the Hancock County districts, but Eastern Hancock decided to stick with the same calendar as G-C, Mt. Vernon and Southern Hancock.

Eastern Hancock’s incoming board members said they’d like to hear from the public before they weigh in on next month’s decision. Scott Johnson and Jim Jackson were elected Nov. 6 and will attend their first meeting as board members in January.

Both were in attendance at Monday’s meeting, and said afterward they’d like to hear public feedback.

“I want to hear what everyone else says, and I’m just one person out of the five,” Jackson said. “But from what I know of the balanced calendar this year, it’s working great.”

Johnson said he doesn’t have any concern about how the balanced calendar is working, but he is also open to hearing the opinions of the community.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal in my opinion, but we’ll have to all get together and talk about it,” he said. “No one has come to me and brought that issue up.”

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