(West Harrison, Ind.) - The Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools Board meeting was well-attended Thursday evening as the district performs a balancing act.
The district has been mulling over whether to adopt a balanced calendar for the 2012-13 school year.
Other local districts - such as Lawrenceburg, South Dearborn and Batesville - have opted for a balanced calendar, a change being driven by the Southeast Career Center in Versailles. The career center which is fed students from many area high schools opted earlier this year to have a balanced calendar next year.
If Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools is on a different calendar from the career center, it could lead to a tougher schedule for those students and higher costs for the district, officials have said.
A similar conflict arises for special needs students at the Ripley Ohio Dearborn Special Education Co-op, where Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools share teachers and resources with other districts.
While the balanced calendar option would have school beginning earlier in August 2012, students would be out a week earlier in May 2013 on the 22nd instead of the 28th.
In November, the school board voted to put the issue to an online survey to get an idea of where the community stands.
Administrators revealed the results of that survey at Thursday’s special meeting focusing on the calendar proposal.
Out of 1,019 responses from parents, teachers, students, support staff, and others living in the district, 79.1 percent identified themselves as a parent or guardian.
In the 12 question poll, 42.3 percent said they would prefer a more traditional student start date of August 13 and final day of May 28. However, more people asked for a start date earlier in the month: 15.2 percent were for August 1 through May 22, 12.0 percent for August 6 through May 22, and 13.6 percent for August 8 through May 22.
A response of “none of the above” was given from 16.8 percent of those polled.
Other highlights from the survey:
-37.6 percent said a balanced calendar would not affect their child care options, while 14 percent said it would. The rest, 48.6 percent, were not sure or not applicable.
-34.1 percent agreed that a balanced school year could enhance the academic achievement of students, while 40.7 percent disagreed. Another 24.8 percent were not sure and 0.4 percent were not applicable.
-29.9 percent agreed a shorter summer vacation time from 11 weeks to 9 weeks will reduce learning loss by students, but 52.1 percent disagreed. Seventeen-point-six percent were not sure and 0.4 percent were not applicable.
-Most respondent, 35.2 percent, responded they would prefer a five day Fall break which is part of a balanced calendar proposal. Thirty-one percent preferred three days while 26.9 percent preferred two days. “None of the above” was the answer from 6.9 percent of respondents.
-A large point of contention with the balanced calendar would be the impact on families’ activities such as vacations, involvement in sports, summer camps, and more. Forty-eight-point-two percent of the respondents disagreed that the balanced calendar would have a positive impact while 30.0 percent agreed. Seventeen-point-seven percent were not sure and 4.2 percent were not applicable.
-Forty-five percent agreed that the calendar start and end dates should consider the educational impact on students at the career center while 24.9 percent disagreed. Another 20.3 percent were not sure while 9.8 percent said the question was not applicable.
-Similarly, the educational impact of the ROD special education students was asked about with 39.9 percent agreeing that aspect should be considered when selecting a calendar. Another 22.4 percent disagreed. Twenty-five-point-four percent were nto sure and 12.3 percent were not applicable.
-A vast majority, 71.7 percent, responded that “the educational benefit to students” was the most important factor for deciding on a calendar. Another 9.9 percent said vacation time with family, 9.2 percent for daycare situations, and 9.3 percent for activities (ie. athletics, band, or a student job) were the most important factors.
The school board will consider the survey data. Sunman-Dearborn Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hendrix said the board will likely have a final vote on the calendar in January.
No matter which calendar the district decides to use, it will include the minimum 180 student days required by the Indiana Department of Education.