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Petition wants students excused to attend fairs

Petition wants students excused to attend fairs

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Concerns about shortened summer vacations have prompted Indiana fair organizers to push for protections for students who miss school to attend agricultural events.

The Indiana Association of Fairs is circulating a petition calling for legislation to ensure students aren't punished if they miss class to attend an event such as the Indiana State Fair.

David Smith, District 4 representative for the association, told The Herald-Times the association began discussing the issue in November and decided to take steps to ensure students who participate in 4-H or FFA don't have absences on their records because they choose to participate in agricultural activities.

"We've decided that something needs to be done to give these kids a break if they need time to do their projects or whatever they are doing," Smith said. "Agriculture is an educational thing, it is an educational experience."

The push comes as schools across the country move toward "balanced" calendars that feature shorter summer vacations and more breaks throughout the year.

Even without a balanced calendar, many Indiana schoolchildren are in class during at least part of the Indiana State Fair, which will run from Aug. 2 to Aug. 18 this year.

Steve Ratcliff, legislative committee chairman for the association, said the petition isn't about letting students miss school simply to attend the state fair. Instead, it specifically targets agricultural students who have a project or are competing at the fair and aims to remove what he called "unevenness" in policies at schools throughout the state.

"We're just looking for it to be uniform across the state for all kids," he said.

Many school administrators say they try to accommodate agricultural students who may have animals or exhibits at the state fair.

"Historically, the state fair is in session after school has started, and we have always excused those students who have participated at the state fair," said Eastern Greene Superintendent Ty Mungle. "Those are excused absence."

Brown County Superintendent David Shaffer said his district also excuses students who qualify for state fair competition, whether they are in 4-H or FFA.

"We think both of these organizations are very important, and we agree with the philosophies espoused by both the FFA and the 4-H," Shaffer said.

The Indiana Association of Fairs' petition will be circulated until March 1. The group hopes to then find a state lawmaker who will support the measure.