Time to head back to school here sooner for Goshen students

With breaks spread through the school year, Goshen Community Schools has a shorter summer than most area schools.

Posted on Aug. 7, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — When Goshen Community Schools opens its doors to students Friday, Neil Rippey will be glad to be starting his senior year, even if it’s earlier than when other area schools start.

“Honestly, what would I do with two more weeks of summer? I’ve had two months off already and I’m already slightly bored,” he said.

Goshen’s first day of classes is the earliest of the public schools in the county and more than a week earlier than Concord’s and Fairfield’s first days.

“It’s not like we’re losing anything,” Rippey said. Though Goshen students are having a shorter summer vacation, they’ll have an extended fall break in October and a week-and-a-half spring break in March and April.

Not everyone is happy with the change, though. The Goshen School Board approved this year’s calendar in February with board members and administrators saying that the new calendar could help counter summer learning loss, alleviate some of the pressure on teachers and help accommodate some school trips Goshen High School students take in the spring, including a marine biology trip to Florida.

While Rippey said he’ll appreciate the vacation days more during the school year when he can “get out and not melt” in the heat of Goshen’s summer days, another Goshen student is frustrated by the changes.

“It’s a little stressful,” said Pamela Studebaker, who will be a junior at the high school. Studebaker was busy during the Elkhart County 4-H Fair with her 4-H rabbit before heading off to a church camp. She’ll arrive home just a few days before she heads back to school.

“That’s not very much time to get ready,” she said.

“I think it’s just healthier for everybody to have a break and not do school things for a little while,” she said. She also laments that her friends in other school districts won’t be on fall and spring break all of the same days she will be.

When the Goshen School Board approved this year’s calendar, several parents brought up that the earlier start would challenge marching band and sports practices.

The impact, at this point, though, seems minimal.

“After seeing all the specifics, it really didn’t affect what we do in the summer,” Athletic Director Larry Kissinger said.

Several fall sports teams traditionally have two practices a day the two weeks leading up to the start of school. This year, those practices began July 30, with the number of practices cut back just a bit because of Friday’s start. “But I think the kids probably need a break. They’ll get to everything they’ll need to,” he said.

If Goshen did start even earlier in coming years, like Aug. 1, that would impact the sports department much more.

“Summer would look a whole lot different,” Kissinger said.

Marching band also began its practices last Monday, July 30.

The jury’s out on how the new schedule affects the marching band until they’re competing later in the season.

Along with the Friday start date, the Elkhart County 4-H Fair also adds another complexity to scheduling band practices.

Goshen’s marching band had to split its usual two-week band camp into one week before the fair and the second week last week. They also had to do that in 2009, Band Director Tom Cox said.

“I feel mixed because we got through band camp the first week and we had a lot of momentum and then we had to stop,” he said. On the other hand, the kids take in a lot of information that first week and maybe they need a break, he said.

The first Monday after the fair was largely review, which Cox said wouldn’t have happened with two consecutive weeks of practices, but that through the band camp “the kids worked hard and in spite of the hot weather, we met all our goals.”

The weekend between Indiana State School Music Association band contests, Goshen usually attends an invitational contest in Indianapolis, but this year, that weekend lands after Goshen’s fall break, Oct. 15 through 19. They’ll likely still practice some, but nto actually travel to compete, Cox said.

No matter how the calendar changes affect the band, “we’ll do whatever we need to be where we’re usually at,” he said.

He said he understands why the Goshen School Board approved the adjusted calendar. “Less time off is less forgetting,” he said.

Last year, Goshen students returned to school on Aug. 17. Though starting a bit earlier this year, Goshen students’ last scheduled day of the school year is May 29, the same as Wa-Nee’s, but a day or more earlier than the remainder of the county’s schools.

Other local schools start within the next two weeks.

Elkhart and Baugo school corporations aren’t far behind Goshen, with classes beginning Tuesday, Aug. 14. Middlebury Community Schools begins Aug. 15, while Wa-Nee beings Aug. 17. Fairfield’s first day for students is Aug. 20 and Concord’s is Aug. 22.

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