"Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer."
Summer was like that when writer Ray Bradbury penned those words for his 1957 novel Dandelion Wine. The end of school and the start of summer promised long, lazy days of leisure stretching far into the future.
Summer could feel a little like that this year for Central Kentucky schoolchildren.
Thursday is the last day of classes for the Fayette, Madison, Harrison and Woodford county schools. Some other area districts, Bourbon, Clark and Garrard counties among them, already have finished.
Thanks to last winter's mild weather and few snow days, many Kentucky schools are closing in May for the first time in years. It's quite a change from last year, when making up seven snow days kept Fayette schools open until June 3.
It also that means students, parents and teachers can look forward to almost three full months of freedom.
Jaden Goodwin, 10, and his brother Ryan, 8, both students at Lexington's Liberty Elementary School, plan to spend the summer squeezing in every bit of baseball they possibly can. Both play Cal Ripken baseball, and their season runs to August. Since the Fayette public schools won't re-open until Aug. 15, they'll have time to do other things after the season. Such as?
"Play more baseball," Ryan declared Wednesday evening at Liberty Elementary's annual Picnic With The Arts, the school's last big event of the year.
Valerie Smith, who was attending the picnic with her son Chase, 10, said "it's exciting" that the school year is ending now. "In a way, I hate to see the school year end. But in another way I can't wait for it to be over. It's nice not having to get up in the morning, deal with homework and all that good stuff."
Chase said he has no regrets; he's just glad to be getting out of school.
Teachers, too, are glad to have a longer break, said Jane Dreidame, principal at Southern Middle School in Lexington. There will be more time for trips, she said, and more time for teachers who are taking college classes over summer. "The last few years, with us being open up into June, teachers in graduate school were having to start classes before we were even out of school," Dreidame said. "They didn't get much of a summer at all. But this year there will be a little bit of a breather."
It might seem like forever since Fayette schools closed this early, but the district actually wrapped up classes in May as recently as four years ago. In fact, Fayette schools closed in May from 2005-06 through 2007-08. In 2006, classes ended on May 23 with zero snow days, one fewer than this year.
Perhaps the best advice for everybody is to enjoy the extended summer break while it lasts. An icy winter with lots of snow days could put schools right back in the short summer mode next year.