By JEROD CLAPP
> SOUTHERN INDIANA — They rolled out of bed, ate breakfast, grabbed their backpacks and made their way to the bus stop a full two weeks earlier than usual.
Across Clark and Floyd counties, students came in on the new balanced calendar schedule on Thursday. The calendar model gives students more time off during the school year, but a shorter summer and earlier starting date.
But as Kathy Gilland got students ready for their first day back at class in Clarksville Elementary School, she said they were set to start the new school year.
“They were ready today,” said Gilland, who helped Clarksville transition before she takes her job as principal at Utica Elementary School in Greater Clark County Schools. “They were just as ready if we had started on the 15th. They were excited to be here. Mom got them up and said school starts today, so they did what they were supposed to do.”
She said younger students don’t seem to mind the earlier start because they’ve not had time to get used to anything else.
But even the older students came in on the first day of school ready to go. Mark Laughner, principal at Charlestown High School, said the promise of extended seasonal breaks softened the blow of the early start.“I haven’t heard many complaints,” Laughner said. “I think they understand the fact that at the end of each nine weeks, you’re going to get two weeks off. I think high school kids realize that they’ll be fine.”
But he said schools may have to keep closer track of their enrollment. The earlier start date may keep some students from coming in on the first day, but Laughner said he expected students to trickle in by next week for sure.
Jessica Waters, principal at Hazelwood Middle School in the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., said her students also look forward to longer breaks, but they were happy to see their friends and teachers.
“It’s been absolutely wonderful,” Waters said. “Every kid that walked in was excited to be back. They loved being in their school, seeing new teachers in their grade levels and seeing their friends. We’ve got some great kids who are just polite and happy to be here.”
Laughner also said Greater Clark’s introduction of Chromebooks in every classroom got students and teachers excited about the start of the new year.
“I think the teachers are excited to be able to have that as a tool to engage students,” Laughner said. “With technology, you’re always ready to go to work. With all the new things out there as far as apps, they’re excited to use those in the classroom. The students want to use those as part of their classroom experience, so I think it’s going to go well.”
Lisa Nale, principal at William H. Borden Junior/Senior High School, said she thought the district did a nice job of making sure parents were aware of any adjustments they’d have to make throughout the year for the balanced calendar, but still might have some extra planning to do when the breaks come along.
“I think our community and our students alike are looking forward to the change,” Nale said. “The biggest concern we’ve had is childcare for the younger students, but they’ve said the older students will watch the younger kids.”
But she said some parents have found help with local daycares offering short-term programs to keep children through the work day.
Louis Jensen, director of high schools for New Albany-Floyd County schools, said he and other administrators visited all but three of their schools throughout the district.
He said middle school administrators were happy with their transition into the school year as well as the open houses held for students and parents through the last few days.
He said while the boost in enrollment they’re expecting should be good news, he’s just glad everyone’s excited to be back in their buildings.
“Its been a great start, we were very impressed with the way the buildings were running today,” Jensen said. “I think students always look forward to going back to school. It’s an opportunity for them to be back with their friends and being back in a school culture.”