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SACS moves school year start up, adds fall break

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Students within Southwest Allen County Schools will soon have a week-long Fall Break after the district's board rejected a community preference to keep a traditional calendar.

The board on Tuesday night voted 3-2 to move its school year start date up a week and install a Fall Break. Beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, students will start Aug. 5 and have a week-long Fall Break in October.

Last month, the district presented two calendar options to parents: a "Traditional" option with an Aug. 12, 2020, student start date and a May 26, 2021, student last day, or a "Fall Break" option with an Aug. 5, 2020, student start date, a week-long fall break to begin Oct. 5, 2020, and a May 25, 2021, student last day.

The district asked parents to review the proposed calendars and submit feedback through an online survey.

Nearly 2,500 students, parents and community members responded, including nearly 1,900 parents or guardians, the district said. Fifty-six percent of those who responded said they preferred the "Traditional" option, and 59 percent of parents or guardians felt the same.

The school board by majority vote this week did not side with those majorities. Vice President of the board, Tom Rhoades, says it was a tough decision to make. 

"We looked at every comment, we struggled with every decision, we debated and communicated a great deal on this and everyone's opinion was very important," said Rhoades. "In the end for me it came down to what I felt was best for the staff and the students."

The district wrote in a question-and-answer page on its website that the Fall Break option came to be out of suggestions from community members. It said it would be beneficial to the "academic, physical and social well-being" of students.

"The purpose of taking time off from school is not necessarily for travel; rather it is to provide
children with a break from the pressures of academics," the district wrote. "SACS recognizes many of its students are involved in voluntary extracurricular activities throughout the year, and many of those
activities are “in season” during times when school is not in session. Those students may not be
able to travel at those times but may still experience the benefit of time away from class."

Still, some parents feel disappointed about the vote and feel their opinions weren't taken into consideration.

"I understand that a lot of school systems down in the Indianapolis area do it, that's great, we don't live in Indianapolis, we live in Southwest Allen County," said parent Sallie Hersha. "We voted against this, honor that."

The new calendar will begin with the 2020-2021 school year.

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