With a vote that largely ignored overwhelming negative feedback from
the community, the Monroe County school board recently approved a new calendar for 2013-2016 shortening the summer holiday to about 9 weeks (including snow days), with school starting at the beginning of August, in exchange for a few short breaks in the Fall.
Our community embraces policy changes to benefit All Students when implemented with clear data and research to support the change.
Choices and decisions should have clear goals, which are driven by SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) analysis. We would like to see improved communication and some analysis of the community impact into a revised calendar for 2014 and beyond.
1. Consider air conditioning costs: Temperatures, on average, are 7 degrees higher in August than September, and 11 degrees hotter than May. The district implemented a cost saving policy a few years ago, by turning down the a/c output by 2 degrees, they incurred a reported savings of thousands of dollars. Those costs will measurably go up.
2. Consider childcare: during short breaks and the lack of availability of IU students in October.
3. Consider the fiscal and labor impact on the business community. Employment gaps occur when high schools are back in session before IU students return. The bottom line for pools, ice cream parlors, and shops will be affected with fewer patron days in August.
4. Consider the impact on our families:
a. Custody agreements for divorced families
b. Family vacations
c. International population in Bloomington tied to IU start dates and August holiday.
5. Consider enrichment activities:
a. Approximately 225 marching band and color guard students will be affected.
b. More than 1000 football, soccer, cross country, volleyball, tennis, golf, cheerleading athletes will lose preseason workouts and development training, resulting in peak performance occurring later in the season.
c. Fewer and reduced opportunities to attend summer camps: Ivy Tech, YMCA, Boys/Girls Club, adventure/wilderness camps, church camps, music camps, and more.
d. 4H members, with competitions at the state fair will have financial and educational ramifications.
6. Consider experiential learning: There are benefits of free play and unstructured time outside during August. Studies have shown the benefits of summer breaks while it decreases stress and anxiety. Not All students learn best sitting in a desk with a book open.
7. Consider summer jobs for students and staff:
a. Low income families rely on the additional income.
b. College savings, and other savings goals for teenagers.
c. Life skill development: having a boss, being responsible, problem solving, fiscal responsibility (counting change and using budgets).
d. Staff members frequently assume summer jobs to supplement their income. Their bottom line will also be affected.
8. Consider attendance challenges: The district proposed to extend Thanksgiving break to a full week due to low attendance, up to 10% absence with average rates at 4%. If school starts the 1st week in August, wouldn’t international travel, IU and 4H conflicts present the same problem, or greater, in attendance rates?
10. Consider the amount of academic time: Curriculum material reviews would simply be redistributed across the fall semester.
11. Consider snow days: they need to be made up in the summer, likely resulting in a further abbreviated 9 week summer break.
Many people will be affected by this change, and there was little data presented in support of this change. Please examine the considerations for families, local businesses and the costs of this change. Change for the better is good. But just because many districts in Indiana are moving this direction doesn't make it right for Bloomington. "Everybody's doing it" isn't enough reason for making this change.
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