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School calendar can create sparks

Few things inspire more raw emotions than the public school calendar.

Our schools could be failing and our graduation rates could be plummeting and few people would utter a word. But change a few vacation days around and school officials can expect widespread pandemonium.

For the record, our schools are making academic gains and our graduation rate has improved to the point it's well above the state average. Just thought I should make that clear.

As for the school calendar, I remember eight years ago when the School Board, perhaps dizzy from a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl, made the decision to eliminate Fair Day. This cruel error in judgment would have made innocent students attend school on the Friday the fair was in town, a fate no child should have to endure.

The Standard captured the magnitude of the event when our top headline on the front page of the Sunday, March 20, 2011 edition proclaimed, "New school calendar eliminates Fair Day."

School officials were greeted with immediate feedback and esteemed School Board member Bill Zechman was quoted in the story as saying, "I'm not sure this idea of eliminating Fair Day is going to stick. It's got a lot of people concerned about it."

I will spare you all the painful details because it's sufficient to say Fair Day was returned to the school calendar as an official day off and happiness prevailed.

In recent years, school officials have dodged controversy by sticking to essentially the same calendar year after year. You can give or take a day or two, but the school year now traditionally starts around Aug. 10 with graduation around May 25.

This came after years of tremendous change and unrest. When the 45-15 calendar was the hip thing to discuss in education circles, there was the misguided notion you could improve education simply by juggling the days in which students went to school.

If you recall, the divisiveness grew so deep, we even adopted two separate calendars right here in the Warren County School System. Bobby Ray Elementary operated on its very own 45-15 schedule separate from the rest of the district, while all our other schools followed a more traditional calendar.

As for the school calendar which was just approved Tuesday, much of the concern centers around moving fall break one week earlier in October. Best I can tell, some folks must have purchased non-refundable plane tickets to Japan as soon as the school calendar draft was released, not realizing a draft is subject to change.

The way I see it, kids are only in school 180 days, no matter what calendar is adopted. That translates to less than half the year. If you can't find adequate vacation time in those other 185 days, your schedule is entirely too rigid.

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.