A Republican who serves on a committee that advises the Indiana State Fair has introduced legislation meant to ensure students can attend the annual event – even if it means missing school.
State Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, said the success of the fair is threatened by more schools changing to “balanced calendars.”
A balanced calendar begins earlier in the summer to allow time for longer breaks throughout the year, which leaves a shorter summer.Many Indiana schools have switched hoping to improve test scores and keep students from forgetting what they’ve learned through the summer. A balanced calendar also limits the amount of time in the fall teachers must spend reviewing old material. But it cuts into the state fair’s 17-day calendar.
Cherry said that’s a problem, especially for those who participate in 4-H, which gives students a chance to grow crops. "The 4H Fair is an educational opportunity,” he said.
Cherry authored House Bill 1052, which would enable students to miss school to attend the Indiana State Fair.
“We are so happy that legislature is finally looking at and addressing this,” Andy Koltz, a spokesman for the fair said. “Ever since schools have been starting earlier in the summer, parents have been agonizing over the decision whether or not to pull their kids from school in order to go to the fair.”
Cherry and Koltz both said the bill is not a new idea and many groups have been waiting for this. According to Cherry, the fair is an extension of the classroom that holds many educational opportunities for students. However, the student may still be held accountable for the excursion.
“For students to work all year on a project and to not be able to show it in the fair just is not right,” Cherry said. “It’s educational. The students can write reports at school the next day of what they saw, did or learned, but that decision is left to the individual school corporation”.
Koltz agrees with Cherry that there is tremendous educational value to be found at the fair.
“Oh my goodness, there are so many educational outlets for students at the fair from the animals, exhibits and the public who put it all together. I think this bill is especially going to have an impact on the 4H and FFA kids who show exhibits and compete against each other,” Koltz said. “These are thousands of kids from across the whole state striving for the same thing.”
Cherry said he hopes the bill will enlighten people on the benefits the fair has to offer educationally and recreationally. He said schools should recognize the State Fair as an excused absence, because it is an extracurricular educational activity.
“I’m not just talking about the kids who are showing animals or projects, but also those who want to go with their family for the day. They should be allowed to go, but how they make up that absence is left up to the individual schools,” Cherry said.
With an increasing number of Indiana schools adopting balanced calendars and dropping the traditional schedule, Cherry said he values keeping the tradition of the fair alive, and wants to keep the option open for everyone to attend.
Ally Marlow is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.