Balanced calendar means adjustments for teachers, parents and students

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INDIANAPOLIS - More local school districts are looking to change their schedules.

Balanced calendars start school earlier in the year and shorten summer vacation, but they also give more breaks in the fall.

Teacher Amy Steinhofer is making the most of fall break.

"You know I'm getting a lot of things done," Steinhofer said.

The IPS speech pathologist is getting her first experience at home in October, with a balanced school calendar, implemented by the Indianapolis district this year.

"From a teacher perspective, I really don't see a lot of downfalls to it because it's not a year-round schedule, It doesn't really change summer that much, only by about two weeks," Steinhofer explained.

Now, her children, who attend school in Franklin Township, could get a change too.

That district, on the city's southeast side, just completed three parent forums to get feedback on a similar new school schedule: slightly shorter summers, but also more uniform breaks throughout the year.

The balanced calendar concept is pretty basic. Students have nine weeks on, followed by two weeks off until summer.

"As a parent, I really like the idea of it," Steinhofer said.

The school districts considering balanced calendars are adding up.

Brownsburg Schools just approved the plan for next year.

At least seven others all across central Indiana, including Muncie, New Castle, Southern Hancock, Franklin Township, Decatur Township, Perry Township and Monroe-Gregg are also looking into it.

School leaders say research shows balanced calendars keep kids more focused, and boost attendance.

"A lot of school districts are really looking at their calendars right now," said Franklin Township Assistant Superintendent Ron Blackgrave. "If you get both the teacher and the student there working hard together, test scores are going to go up."

Although Blackgrave's heard some parent concerns about shorter summers, and scheduling for child care, most families are on board.

"I think it's just change. People cringe at the idea of it being different, where I think it might end up being a really good thing," said parent Mindi Strong.

As a parent and a teacher, Amy Steinhofer says it already is.

Warren Township has been on a balanced calendar for three years and says ISTEP scores went up because of the change.

In addition to vacation time, breaks are often used for enrichment or student remediation.

Franklin Township's school board will vote on the calendar in November.