Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Adjusting to a Balanced Calendar
Making changes to the traditional summer break

by Sarah McCosham

April 01, 2013

Summer break may start to look quite different for many area children. With the growing popularity of “balanced calendars” the traditional summer break could soon become a thing of the past.

A balanced calendar is commonly referred to as “year-round school.” Both traditional and balanced calendars feature 180 days of school; the balanced calendar simply reduces the long summer break, resulting in more frequent extended breaks throughout the year.

Proponents of balanced calendars say this model makes more academic sense, as kids retain more knowledge, have better test scores and are less likely to suffer the “burn out” that can plague students in the spring semester. Additionally, teachers often spend a significant portion of the fall semester reviewing material that was forgotten over the summer.

A balanced calendar does have a ripple effect however, as parents try to adjust to the change this has on their family, including how to manage childcare during longer breaks peppered throughout the school year.

How Noblesville Schools will prepare

Noblesville Schools recently voted in favor of adopting a balanced calendar, beginning with the 2013-14 school year. In fact, the issue was first brought to the school board’s attention by the district’s parents, says Noblesville Superintendent Dr. Libbie Conner. Conner says that because the community has been involved in the decision, parents have been able to plan accordingly. “Our community is well aware of the calendar so that they can plan ahead, as can the city and county parks and private agencies who provide activities. We have worked closely with all of them,” she says.

Conner explains that various childcare services will be adapting their schedules to fit the new balanced calendar. Meanwhile, the school’s before- and after-school programs will follow the new schedule, leaving parents to plan for breaks “as they do now [with the traditional calendar].”

As for things like summer camps and extracurricular activities, Conner says that these opportunities will also be adapted to fit the new schedule. While there is an element of the unknown with this new calendar, Conner feels confident that any issues will be resolved. “Every district we have talked with that has experienced the balanced calendar says they would not go back to traditional,” she says. “We are eager to get through the first year, have everyone experience it, and then see how we all like it.”

“Balanced” means different things to different schools

Brian Ray, a math teacher at Chicago Public Schools’ Lindblom Math and Science Academy, says his school experimented with a balanced calendar a few years ago. The calendar was comprised of trimesters, with students having July, November and March off.

“The biggest problem was logistics,” says Ray. “Many of our students who spent their summers attending different academic programs ended up having to miss the last or first week of the school year. Additionally, students trying to make up credits at summer school weren’t able to take as many summer classes, which can impact a school’s on-track rate for graduation,” he says.

In addition to extracurricular conflicts, Ray says that having different school schedules between districts can cause headaches. Plus, there are several models of a “balanced calendar” from which a school can choose. “In my school district, each school was given the option to choose year-round or not. This ultimately caused problems when planning vacations and child care.”

Balanced calendar success

As for Noblesville, with the entire district adapting to the new schedule, and parents on the same page as administrators, the district is on the right track to succeed with the new system. As Noblesville schools proceed with their balanced calendar next school year, other school districts (and parents) will be watching with interest for a window into what may lie ahead in their community.