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Students, families adjusting to new balanced calendar


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Back into the swing of things: Students lined up at New Palestine High School Wednesday morning to register for classes. Principal Keith Fessler said that was a normal occurrence for the first day of school.
Back into the swing of things: Students lined up at New Palestine High School Wednesday morning to register for classes. Principal Keith Fessler said that was a normal occurrence for the first day of school.

Rough transition: Jace Small (right) couldn't control his emotions during his first few minutes of kindergarten while teacher Rene Wickham comforted Seth Bare. It was the first day of school Wednesday at J.B. Stephens Elementary. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Rough transition: Jace Small (right) couldn't control his emotions during his first few minutes of kindergarten while teacher Rene Wickham comforted Seth Bare. It was the first day of school Wednesday at J.B. Stephens Elementary. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

A new perspective: A few hours can make a world of difference. Jace (center) was all smiles while eating lunch with his new classmates, Peyton Knarr (left) and Jacob Roberts. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
A new perspective: A few hours can make a world of difference. Jace (center) was all smiles while eating lunch with his new classmates, Peyton Knarr (left) and Jacob Roberts. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)


GREENFIELD — As Azzie Meadows stepped onto the bus for her first day of school, it wasn’t the kindergartner who dissolved into tears.

“Mommy was crying,” said Azzie, 5, during lunch at J.B. Stephens Elementary Wednesday. “Her was gonna miss me, so her was crying.”

Wednesday marked the first day a balanced calendar brought students back to the classroom two weeks earlier than normal.

Of course, newcomers like Azzie didn’t know the difference. Beginners’ tears aside, they were mostly just excited about a new adventure.

“I’m already happy,” Azzie said between bites of pizza in the J.B. Stephens cafeteria. “It’s really good. … Mom got me new clothes.”

For Greenfield-Central schools, a balanced calendar that shortens the summer and adds periodic breaks throughout the year was adopted in May 2011. G-C was the first district in the county to make the switch, though Mt. Vernon, Southern Hancock and Eastern Hancock all followed suit. All four districts started school on Wednesday.

But even with the advance notice, some families still had trouble adjusting their schedules.

J.B. Stephens first-grader Nathan Barngrover, 6, was among those whose family events conflicted with the early start of the school year.

“Today is gonna be an awesome day because after school, I go on vacation,” he said.

Overall, teachers said the first day this year was no more chaotic than normal.

“It almost seems like we didn’t leave,” second-grade teacher Krista Steeno said. “Home, two more weeks, wouldn’t have been so much more time. I crave a routine, and I think the kids do as well. It’s gone remarkably well.”

Ten-year-old Joe Moore, a fifth-grader at McCordsville Elementary School, said that the earlier schedule due to the balanced calendar was a bit of a transition, but he was quick to point to what he and many of his classmates are already looking forward to: two weeks off in October, December and March at the nine-week intercessions.

“It’s actually a good thing because we get breaks through the year,” he said.

Joe is in a slightly different position than his classmates. His mom is a teacher in the district and will be on the same schedule he is.

“So she gets the same breaks as me.”

With the first day of the balanced calendar year now behind them, administrators are ready to get back into the conventional swing of things. But it hasn’t been without a few bumps in the road.

“We’re starting in August, and the temperature has been horrible, and (the air conditioning system) is not quite fully functioning,” McCordsville Elementary Principal Dan Denbo observed.

The system has been spotty, and some classrooms and some computer labs are warmer than others. But Denbo is optimistic that the problem is on its way to being fixed.

Despite the hiccups, all of the district’s principals and administrators have supported the move to a balanced calendar, Denbo said.

“I think from an educational perspective, it’s a great idea,” Denbo said. “I think everyone is probably really excited about the two weeks in fall and two weeks in the spring.”

High school students might be the ones who have the most trouble adjusting after years with a long summer break.

“I’m just tired,” New Palestine High School senior Zach Rennier said, fighting off a yawn.

At least 50 New Pal high-schoolers spent the part of their first day back standing in a line in the front office, waiting to register for classes.

“It’s pretty normal to have this type of situation,” NPHS principal Keith Fessler said.

But the early start of school this year made the line a tad longer than in years past, he said.

“I think because of the early

start, the start of school may have snuck up on some families,” Fessler said.

Eastern Hancock principals Amanda Pyle and Dave Pfaff said Wednesday felt like any other first day of school except for one thing: a conflict with the Indiana State Fair.

Since many students in the rural school are involved in 4-H, a handful of them will miss a day of school in the next two weeks to show their animals before state judges.

Pyle said the conflict has affected about seven or eight elementary school students so far.

“We’ve talked to those parents, and it’s an excused absence,” she said.

EH senior Victor Vincz said the summer flew by. It feels, he said, like school just let out. Still, he said while his peers may complain about the early start date now, they’ll be grateful with longer breaks throughout the year.

Seniors Tori Bednarski and Angeline Baker agreed.

“You can definitely tell the change,” Baker said, adding that she’s looking forward to the two-week break in October. “The summer went by quick, but I’m kind of excited about it. Everyone complains about it, but they aren’t giving it a shot.”

EH kindergarten teacher Bethany Stacey said she was pleased with how smoothly the first day went.

“My favorite quote (from a kindergarten student) was, ‘I had fun today. I’ll come back tomorrow,’” said Stacey, who feels the same way. “I want to come back tomorrow, so that’s a good thing.”

Daily Reporter staffers Noelle M. Steele, Maribeth Vaughn, Kristy Deer and Joe Hornaday contributed to this story.

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