GREENFIELD — If she’d had her choice, Kim Meyer would have spent this week and next at home with her son, Marley, a second-grader at Harris Elementary.
But for the 29-year-old single mom, taking off work for the two-week fall break that accompanies the new balanced calendar just wasn’t an option.
Meyer, of Greenfield, is one of many parents throughout the county who had to plan ahead for the Oct. 8-19 break shared by all four county school corporations this year.
“I’ve already used vacation for the year,” said Meyer, an office manager at a car dealership. “I only have a little bit left, so I save it for Christmastime.”
And so, Meyer sent her son to the YMCA’s local holiday child care program, as did the parents of about 40 other children from throughout the county.
At about $160 per week, she admits the program was tough on her budget. Yet Meyer fully supports the balanced calendar, which school officials say boosts academic performance by spreading breaks out more evenly throughout the year and shortening the summer break.
“I would rather see them in school more of the time than see that three months (of summer break) erase everything they’ve learned,” she said. “I agree with it. I’m glad it’s happening. I wish I could take the time off with him, but obviously that’s impossible to take all the time throughout the year off with him.”
While coming back to school Aug. 1 this year caused some grumbling, many students have, not surprisingly, been forgiving of the early start now that they have two weeks of fall break to enjoy.
Marley looks forward to going to the YMCA, which takes frequent field trips over holiday breaks.
“We get to go swimming with our friends,” said Marley, 7.
Marley attends the YMCA program held at Weston Elementary School. There are also programs at New Palestine High School and Mt. Comfort Elementary School. A variety of churches are also playing host to child-care programs during the break.
Weston Principal Steve Burt said the balanced calendar has been well-received, for the most part, so far. The only negative comments he’s heard came in August, when students returned to school weeks earlier than normal, he said.
Some parents complained about the short summer, but Burt hopes those same parents are taking advantage of the extended fall break for a chance to take their families on vacation.
“The rates are lower,” Burt said. “I wish it’d been this way when my kids were young.”
Greenfield Intermediate School Principal Jim Bever agreed.
“There was a mass exodus to Disney this week,” he said, adding that he’d heard the popular family theme park was running specials to capitalize on increased traffic as balanced calendars become more common.
Bever said the feedback he’s received about the switch to a balanced calendar has largely been positive.
“I haven’t heard a lot of push-back,” he said. “Some people seem to welcome it, the break and spreading things out more.”
G-C Superintendent Linda Gellert said she’s heard from parents of athletes who are thankful their children have some time to catch up on much-needed sleep during the break. While sports practices and games are still ongoing for many teams, there is time for rest in between activities while school is out on break.
“They’ve just been burning the wick at both ends at the school early and on buses late at night,” Gellert said.
Ultimately, the schools hope to make use of the breaks to offer tutoring opportunities for students who are struggling in class or have fallen behind, Gellert added.
“Ideally, we would offer some remediation; we just aren’t there yet,” she said. “I’d like to maybe grow that.”
Mel Holloman, a single mother of three, is thankful the balanced calendar didn’t go into effect until her two older children could stay home by themselves.
Nine-year-old Emmily is headed to the YMCA program for four days each week while her older siblings stay at home.
“I can’t leave her with them because they’d kill each other,” joked Holloman, whose older children are 14 and 12.
Holloman, who works at Covance, said she prefers the long break because it allows for more family time.
Holloman is among the many parents who are taking advantage of the time off for some time away with family. She planned take her kids to Pokagon State Park near Fort Wayne for a long weekend.
“We don’t really have a chance to get away, so it’s nice, having two weeks, … that you can run off and do stuff like that,” she said.
Like Holloman, many parents seem to have planned ahead to be home with their kids or go on vacation, said Darren Turner, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hancock County.
Turner said an average of 25 children per day were at the club this last week. That’s comparable to the numbers Turner sees during other, shorter school breaks, and it’s only about a fifth of the number of kids who come to the daily after-school program when school is in session.
“We really don’t know if our numbers are going to go up next week or if it’s going to stay the same,” Turner said. “Since this is the first time we had this process, we didn’t know what to expect.”
Local day care House of Kids Inc., on the other hand, saw increased numbers starting at the first of the week.
Erin Roush, assistant director, said House of Kids, located just west of Green Meadows Drive and State Street in Greenfield, has had about 20 more children than normal.
Roush said House of Kids prepared by having a sign-up sheet last week for field trips and other activities, so organizers could plan ahead.
“We’re seeing more children throughout the course of the entire day instead of just after school,” Roush said.