Jen Cameron’s daughter Chloe doesn’t attend school in Fort Wayne.
She isn’t among the thousands of Fort Wayne Community Schools students required to stay an hour longer at school to make up for days missed because of snow and ice.
Yet, the extended school days mean 12-year-old Chloe’s dance classes won’t begin on time, and Chloe will have to push back bedtime or shuffle her schedule to make sure she’s prepared for upcoming competitions.
The leaders of many after-school programs have already begun shuffling schedules or postponing activities, including an FWCS tutoring program, for several weeks.
The state’s rules are clear: School districts are required to make up for missed instructional time.
The problem is, doing so will cause headaches for someone – student, teacher, parent or after-school group – and it’s not yet clear just how far the effects might trickle down.
All county public school districts have proposed plans for making up for days. Fort Wayne Community Schools, Northwest Allen County Schools and East Allen County Schools will stretch school days. Southwest Allen County Schools will use online lessons to get back on track.
Chloe Cameron attends Oak Farm Montessori School in Avilla where, unlike those in local public schools, students aren’t required to meet the same 180-instructional-days rule and won’t need to extend school days or spend the first couple of weeks of June in class to make up for missed time.
But the young dancer takes classes at Center Stage Academy of Dance alongside students from local districts who will.
She does competitions and with those right around the corner, she can’t afford to miss any time, Jen Cameron said.
After learning how public districts will make up for missed time, studio teachers told parents that afternoon classes would be delayed by an hour, and the latest classes could run even later or be shifted to another day of the week.
Cameron said parents voted to move late-night rehearsals, some that end at 10 p.m., to a different day.
All the parents said we’d rather go on Thursday, which works, but it’s a 20-minute drive for us, she said. We’re already spending a lot of time in the car, and for the next few weeks, we’ll be spending some more.
The Cameron family isn’t the only one indirectly affected by changing schedules. Across the city, after-school programs and activities are shifting gears to make sure students don’t miss out.
Fort Wayne Ballet is shuffling students around to different classes at other times to make sure there’s no interruption in lessons. The group is host to youth classes six days a week for more than 300 students.
It’s important that we keep (students) steady in their educational process, artistic director Karen Gibbons-Brown said. We’re trying to accommodate it in a couple different ways, but we obviously can’t meet everybody’s needs.
The studio will also open to students during FWCS’ spring break, she said.
We’re just trying to remain as flexible as we can, Gibbons-Brown said.
The Plex, an indoor and outdoor sports facility, has also struggled to adjust to changing schedules.
We know that our biggest piece of clientele is affected by that, whether it’s the kids who play in our leagues or parents who are on a league and now have to adjust their schedule as well, said Mitchell Haifley, Plex project manager.
It is difficult to push things back, Haifley said, especially when some programs run into the night.
We have some programs that don’t end until midnight or 1 a.m. as it is, he said. It’s even worse when you’re talking about things not ending until 3 or 4 a.m.
Haifley said the plan could involve rearranging practices and programs, but it’s too soon to say what the full effect will be when all districts begin the process of making up for missed time.
Curtis Eastes, master instructor at Blue Dragon Karate, said his classes are already feeling the sting of extended hours.
We have a class that starts at 4 p.m., and that class went from 10 students to three because Northwest Allen added that extra hour, Eastes said.
Most of those students have transferred into one of the later classes, he said.
But the other part of his concern is yet to be seen, Eastes added.
How will his 50 or 60 full-time students perform at practice after an extra hour of school?
The first week, it’s not going to be too measurable, but by the second or third week, once they have been doing this a little longer, I expect the energy levels are going to be way down, Eastes said.
For other programs, the altered schedule leaves no choice but to cancel until hours return to normal.
Study Connection, which provides after-school tutoring for FWCS students, has canceled the program until the week of April 14.
Schools adjust, too
As after-school programs and organizations continue to adjust schedules and prepare for the weeks ahead, so will students.
North Side High School junior Caitlyn Pepple said she’s already dreading the schedule change.
Pepple is involved in show choir and theater, and with spring shows starting soon, after-school practice is ramping up.
Practice begins at 4:30 p.m., and I might not even get home until way after 8 p.m., Pepple said. And then I still have to do my homework and everything.
Even the area’s youngest students are feeling the effects.
Janet Mitchell said her daughter attends afternoon preschool at Whitney Young Early Childhood Center and will be missing important things including snack and gym time on the new schedule.
Unlike those in the morning preschool classes, afternoon students will be held an extra hour so they can be transported by FWCS buses that run on the same route as elementary school students.
It’s not going to kill her. She loves her preschool teachers. But I’m paying for a certain service, and now that’s being denied, Mitchell said.
FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said that as the district considered ways to extend the school day, the issue of preschool hours was discussed.
Splitting the time and adding a half-hour to both classes would be too messy, and there was no way with transportation to pull that off, Stockman said.
At Southwest Allen, the only local district that did not extend the school day, students and parents face a different set of challenge as students are assigned online work in addition to regular homework and after-school activities.
Julie Tutwiler, the mother of two SACS students, said she would have preferred the district go later into summer vacation than require students to work in unfamiliar territory.
Part of my frustration is we still don’t really know what’s happening, Tutwiler said.
Although her children know they have assignments due – some as soon as this week – it’s not clear what those are or how the eLearning process will work, she said.
Now they’ll go to school all day, and then do this at night and on the weekend? Tutwiler asked. If I wanted to home-school my kids, I’d just home-school them.