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Schools struggle to balance fun, academics when it comes to Halloween

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Catherine W. Idzerda
October 27, 2011
To dress up or not dress up, that is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of community standards, teachers and administrators,
Or take a stand against foam swords, age-inappropriate outfits and fake blood,
And by opposing all, avoid the issue completely.

Costumes were never an issue for Shakespeare—odd outfits are de rigueur for theater productions.


It’s not so easy for school districts.


Kids, especially younger kids, want the chance to show off their costumes. Teachers want their students to have fun, but they also know that when fake whiskers and cute witch hats go on, instructional time goes out the window.


Much depends on what individual communities deem appropriate.


Earlier this week, Orfordville Elementary School Principal Karen Strandt-Conroy caused a Shakespearean tempest in a teapot when she sent home a letter telling parents that third-graders could wear “appropriate costumes that meet the school dress code.


“Students in the fourth to sixth grade should not wear or bring costumes to school, but will instead celebrate with their classmates in a appropriate manner,” she wrote.


Strandt-Conroy said she made her decision after consulting with teachers, and because she was concerned about loss of instructional time.


The policy was reversed after parents complained. Students were allowed to change into costumes for classroom parties that took place the last hour of the school day.


One parent e-mailed the Gazette and asked, “What kind of school doesn’t let 9- to 10-year-old kids dress up for Halloween.”


That’s an excellent question.


Plenty of schools have said no costumes during the school day, period.


In the Delavan-Darien School District, Darien Elementary and Turtle Creek Elementary don’t allow costumes at all, said Mike Heine, district spokesman. Wileman Elementary allows 4K and 5K students to dress up for part of one day, and students have a costume parade at Willowfield Nursing Home right next to the school property in Delavan.


At Yahara Valley Elementary in the Edgerton School District, students will be allowed to change into costumes for a parade and classroom parties at the end of the day Friday, said Principal Aundrea Kerkenbush.


Friday is an early dismissal day, and Kerkenbush and other staff felt this was the best way to minimize classroom disruption.


Even more important, Wisconsin Knowledge Concepts Exam (WKCE) testing begins next week, and Kerkenbush wants kids focused and ready.


And at Orfordville Elementary School, Parkview District Superintendent Steve Lutzke, Strandt-Conroy and her staff are considering what to do about Halloween next year.


Strandt-Conroy hopes to work with the PTO on the issue. The group plans a variety of events for the school, and perhaps costumes could be part of a fall-themed party.


Cops, brides, monkeys show up for class

Chris Sanders, you have the right to remain silent—and that includes giggling.


Anything you say or do might be held against you, or it might make me laugh.


You have the right to have a lawyer—or a piece of Colby cheese—with you during questioning.


On Wednesday, students at Orfordville Elementary celebrated Halloween with costume parties during the last hour of the school day. Our friend Mr. Sanders, 9, was dressed as a police officer.


Other costumes ranged from cute witches to mad scientists, monkeys to brides and hunters to football players.


Sanders costumes had “muscles” drawn on it.


“It’s just padding,” said Haleigh Komprood, 9, who was dressed as a witch, complete with black tights, purple-sparkled tutu, black shirt and an exquisite hat.


Sanders wasn’t bothered by his classmate’s revelation—he was going around telling everybody his muscles were padded.


When encouraged to “make a muscle,” he refused with a grin and continued eating the cheese and sausage provided for the party. When threatened with arrest, he laughed out loud.


Delaney Arnold, 9, went to the party as a monkey. Her grandmother, Marci Barnes, made the costume for her.


“She made my sister a panda costume, too,” Arnold said.


Remington Stark, 9, went as a bride in her grandmother’s wedding dress, complete with veil.


“It’s 35 years old,” Stark said. “I’m wearing it because we didn’t have time to find anything else.”


Stark’s mother, Stephanie Stark, confirmed that her own mother, Nancy Betker, wore it for her wedding in 1976.


“She’s right, we didn’t have any time,” Stephanie said. “Earlier in the week it was ‘no costumes,’ and then yesterday she came home and said costumes were OK.”


The faded dress made Remington look like Miss Havisham of the Charles Dickens novel “Great Expectations”—except that Remington is far too young and far too cute for the part.


Maverick Kundert, 9 and Logan Gragg, 10, went as “hunting twins.” They were both dressed in camouflage hats, shirts, pants and boots.


Seriously, camouflage boots.


“I can’t see you guys,” one adult joked.



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