Board approves calendar, parents leave disappointed
The Noblesville Board of School Trustees unanimously approved a balanced calendar for the 2013-14 school year following a failed motion to table the decision after parents asked the board to reconsider. Noblesville is now the only district not using a traditional calendar in Hamilton County.
Next school year will begin on Aug. 1 and end May 30. It includes two-week breaks in the fall, winter and spring, and any flex days needed would be scheduled the week of June 2.
Prior to the vote, School Board Member Chris Hamm said parents had made interesting points and suggested the board better inform the community and table the motion for 30 days.
“I’m a little bit concerned of a public forum on a Monday and a vote a week later,” he said. “Parents have concerns or questions not addressed to their satisfaction. It’s a big decision for the corporation. . . What’s the harm in continuing this for 30 days?”
School Board Member Julia Kozicki, who made the motion seconded by Pat Berghoff, said two-thirds of the 3,686 survey participants supported the move. Supt. Libbie Conner said the biggest impact of postponing the vote would be vacation planning.
“We usually have a calendar a year in advance – way before now,” she said. “We’re cutting it close to do it now.”
Hamm’s motion was not seconded and after the unanimous vote was made most of the parents in attendance walked out of the meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, parents like Norman Williams addressed the board. Williams, a father of four and school board candidate, said the board should provide additional time for the community to do more research about the balanced calendar.
“The message to parents is you’re not listening,” he said. “Give them time to think or do their own research.”
“It’s a little hasty,” added Amy Osgood. “I’m not able to voice my opinion as a parent or member of the community.”
Assistant Supt. Steven Stephanoff headed the 20-member study committee comprised of parents, teachers, school administrators and a high school student, which was formed after a 2010 community survey found support for investigating a move to a balanced calendar. The committee made a presentation to the school board in June. A community survey was done online for one week and a public forum was held on Oct. 15 – eight days before the school board meeting – at which time the survey results were released.
“Four thousand respondents is not a good cross section,” said Williams. “It seems rushed. . . What’s the hurry? Get it right.”
Laura Paris also expressed her displeasure in the district’s time table.
“I’m also concerned with the urgency of the vote. There’s no need to rush,” Paris said.
During her research, Paris said that balanced calendars do not impact middle class families that provide enrichments and non-traditional educational opportunities during the summer break. Instead, the data shows “low income, high crime and English as a second language in high population cities” are impacted academically by shorter summer breaks.
“There’s no academic benefit for balanced calendar,” she said.
Another concern raised by parents was childcare during the extended fall and spring breaks.
“There were no concrete answers for single parents or two income families and what to do with child care and how they’re going to be able to pay for child care,” Paris said.