The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines provide a schedule for school breaks and holiday breaks. It is obvious that the schedule provided by the Guidelines did not have balanced school calendars in mind. For instance, the Guidelines contemplate that Spring Break will be only one week, whereas in a balanced calendar Spring Break is two weeks long. Balanced calendars are becoming increasing popular and are being adopted by many Indiana school corporations. However, the new Guidelines, effective March 1, 2013, discuss balanced calendars.
What is a balanced school calendar?
The following charts compare the distribution of days in school and days on break on the nine-month traditional calendar vs. the distribution of school days on a balanced or modified calendar. Weekends are excluded form the charts, with both models detailing a typical year of 258 work days (Monday through Friday). Both charts represent a standard school year of 180 days.
The traditional calendar features a long summer vacation of 12 weeks followed by a long period of in-session days, with the first break coming at Thanksgiving. The winter holidays are followed by 55 in-session days before a short spring break. Spring break is followed by 40 work days before the end of the school year.
The balanced calendar reduces the long summer break and simply apportions those days throughout the school year, producing more frequent breaks and thus limiting long periods of in-session days, as well as longer vacations. Both calendars feature 180 days of instruction, with the modified calendar balancing the frequency of in-session days with days on break. The winter holiday and Thanksgiving break can be the same on both calendars.*
Not all schools follow the above calendars exactly, but generally, the idea is a shortened Summer break and longer Fall and Spring Breaks.
The most significant change is a shorter Summer Break. This affects all parents, in that the Guidelines presently presume each parent receives one-half of the Summer Break. Moreover, parents who exercise the suggested schedule "Where Distance Is A Major Factor" receive seven (7) weeks of the Summer Break. With a balanced calendar there may not be seven (7) weeks of Summer Break altogether. Presumably this time could be made up during the Fall and Spring Break, but doing so will require additional travel time and travel costs.
The Guidelines presently only assume one week of Spring Break and do not provide for Fall Break whatsoever. The Amended Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines do provide for Fall Break, and define both Spring Break and Fall Break in a manner which could be longer than a week. The amended language is as follows:
Spring Break. From two hours after the child is released from school on the child’s last day of school before Spring Break, and ending 7:00 p.m. on the last day before school begins again.
Fall Break. From two hours after the child is released from school on the child’s last day of school before Fall Break and ending 7:00 p.m. of the last day before school begins again.
The new Guidelines, suggest that if a child attends a school that has a year-round or balanced calendar, the noncustodial parent's extended parenting time shall be one-half of the time for fall and spring school breaks. Unless agreed otherwise, the noncustodial parent shall have the first half in off years, and the second half in even years. Additionally, the new guidelines state:
If the child attends a school with a year-round or balanced calendar, the noncustodial parent's parenting time should be adjusted so that the noncustodial parent and child spend at least as much time together as they would under a traditional school calendar.
The best way to deal with the impact of a balanced calendar on your child and your parenting time would be to customize your parenting time plan to deal with the calendar. Doing so will likely require formal modification of the parenting time order with the Court that has jurisdiction of your case.
* The charts and explanations above are used with permission of the National Association of Year Round Education ("NAYRE"). NAYRE is a nationally recognized organization of educators, parents and businesses working to increase student achievement through its focus on creating effective time on learning. The Association promotes a balanced academic calendar to reduce learning loss and extensive review time that decreases time for new learning.