THIS is the second week of the extended fall break that Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. students and their families have been experiencing for the first time.
The two-week fall vacation is one element in a pilot project to study the impact that a balanced calendar will have on the educational progress of local students.
The real concern voiced by some family members is the impact it has on such things as vacations and the need to arrange for child care.
The project, which shortens summer vacation to eight weeks and extends to two weeks the breaks in the fall and at Christmas, was adopted on a three-year trial basis by the BCSC school board after two-thirds of the 2,100 respondents to an online survey about the program voiced support.
One of the intents of the balanced calendar was to bring a sense of academic efficiency to a process that has its roots in the 19th century and even earlier and is based on ways of life that no longer exist. In 19th-century agrarian America, many children were looked upon by their parents as hired hands who were especially important as farm workers in the growing and harvesting seasons.
Although that attitude eventually changed, school calendars didn’t. The long warm weather breaks were considered ideal vacation times, and families could make their plans around a stable schedule.
But many educators think that the extended summer breaks, which represent a transition from one academic class to the next, had become mind-numbing experiences for students and required that the first few weeks of a new school year be devoted to refreshing the students’ knowledge of what they had learned in the previous year.
It will obviously take some time and a careful review of such measures as test scores and individual student progress to assess whether a shortened summer vacation will actually improve the educational process. For that reason alone it is important that all concerned, especially family members, give the new schedule time.
There are some legitimate concerns that have been raised in more than a few working family households that the new schedule has forced some parents to seek day care services that hadn’t previously been needed.
That is where the community can play a role, particularly through youth-oriented programs, such as those offered by institutions like the Foundation for Youth and kidscommons, which have been promoting their particular school break programs before and during the fall break.
It is important to acknowledge that this pilot project was undertaken only after an overwhelming number of families had shown their support. Whether that support continues after the pilot period is over remains to be seen.
If follow-up studies indicate there, indeed, has been an improvement in student performance, the temporary calendar should become a permanent one.
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