Superintendent Kim Tucker opened the work session by stating she and the other members of the board, "want to receive feedback on these calendars. We want to hear your thoughts so we can take that information into consideration."
One of the first parents to speak was Anthony Schleppy, who said he was in favor of the balanced calendar options because it would make it easier for parents who work on rotating schedules.
"As far as vacation schedules go, I work rotating shift work, so the balanced calendars would work better for my family personally," Schleppy said. "If there's only one week of spring break or fall break, everyone will want to take off work, that's not going to happen, but if we have two weeks it will be a lot more flexible."
Next, Mary Yelton, Director of the LEAAP (Linking Education to Adults, Adolescents and Preschoolers) Center, spoke to the board regarding different studies that have proven shorter breaks help kids lose less information.
"Research shows that having shorter time during the summer, students don't lose as much, and that has been a great concern," Yelton said.
Many parents were concerned with the two-week spring break on the balanced calendar.
Parents had a number of reasons why they did not favor a two-week spring break, including not being able to take time off of work, not finding adequate or convenient day care and their children's abilities to retain information over longer breaks.
Yelton and others suggested the use of the YMCA's childcare facilities during school breaks. Other parents argued the YMCA may not be able to handle a large amount of children for that amount of time, and that there is no YMCA available in Clay City, where many parents and children live.
Additionally, some were concerned about the lack of care that would be given to children during spring break who may not have adequate care at home. These parents worried those children (specifically those on the schools' free/reduced lunch program) would go hungry during a two-week spring break.
To that issue, board member Rob Miller said, 'that is a social issue. It's not the corporation's job to be the parent of all these students."
Further, parents were worried about what might happen if spring break fell right before students take the ISTEP+ tests. Parents were concerned a two-week break right before testing could affect test scores.
Board member Ron Scherb was concerned with the balanced calendar as it calls for the first day of school falling on Aug. 1, which collides with the Indiana State Fair. Scherb's concern was that 4-H students who are accepted to participate in the state fair will miss the first day of school, or parents who are also educators will miss their first teaching day if they take their child to the fair.
"You excuse the students if they want to go to a state fair competition," Scherb said, "but some teachers are parents too, and they have to decide whether they're going to go to school on that first day to bond with their students for the first time, or to go to the fair with their child. The first day is one of the most important. We're making people choose between missing the first day or being with their child."
Tucker said she was, "sorry they have to make that choice."
Another topic of discussion with the calendars was a need for parent-teacher conferences. Scherb asked Tucker why there were none, and she said under former state Superintendent of Education Tony Bennett, legislation mandated the school corporation not exceed 180 school days. Therefore, there was no space to put in parent-teacher conferences during the school days.
"Once (Bennett) said those conferences could not count in the 180 days, we had to eliminate them," Tucker said.
Many parents wondered why conferences could not be in the evenings, but Tucker said due to employee contracts and schedules, teachers are not able to work evenings.
"We can't mandate teachers to come in the evening and give them flex time in the morning," Tucker said.
Consensus among those attending the meeting seemed to be that parent-teacher conferences were preferred. The board said they would look into making this a possibility for the next school year.
Throughout the meeting, board members recognized the need to hear these concerns and accept that not everyone will be pleased with the end result.
"Whatever we decide, not everyone will be 100 percent happy," Board President Jennifer Kaelber said. "We just have to make it the best we can."
"This is a work in progress," board member Amy Burke Adams said. "We may have to implement one of these for next year and then recognize the problems as they come and fix them for the following year. What we're striving for is a schedule that best fits Clay Community Schools. We may not implement the perfect one, but it will give us the opportunity to see what works and what doesn't."
Scherb said he would prefer to look at the options longer and "work the bugs out" before implementing it.
"I say we work through these problems now and wait until next year (2014-15) to implement it," Scherb said.
Board members said they will think further about the calendars before their final vote is made. The board will vote on the 2013-14 school calendar at their Feb. 14 meeting. The meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m., at the CCS Administrative Building.
More information on all proposed calendars can be found at http://www.edline.net/pages/clay_communi.... Anyone wishing to submit input or vote on their preferred calendar must do so by Friday, Feb. 8.