by Brent HoveyReporterAurora -- Today (Oct. 31) at the end of the school day, local elementary students will gather for little parties.Some will wear costumes; others won't. There will be pumpkins around and treats available.But technically, it's not a Halloween celebration, it's a fall festival. "Halloween" parties have been phased out in Aurora schools. Superintendent Russ Bennett said the schools haven't had "Halloween parties" for some time, for safety and security than anything else."It's just a fall harvest party now," Bennett said. "Parents still run the party, but there are stricter guidelines about the number of people we let into the buildings." Bennett said they just don't allow a high number of visitors in the buildings.He added there are a lot of issues which need to be considered when planning classroom parties."There's the sensitivity between the community and balancing that with kids growing up wanting to have fun," he said. "There used to be a parade around the school grounds or building. We don't do that anymore. We have to think about safety and security. We still have fun, but we need to balance education with fun."The parties are planned by parent volunteers in each classroom, and Bennett said they do a great job."I think we have a nice blend and nice balance at these parties," he noted.At Leighton, Principal Greg Pollock said the celebration has always been called a fall festival. The school has been open for seven years and they have never called in a Halloween party."It's an end-of-the-day party," he said. "We allow students to bag their costume. As long as they can change into it in the room, they can wear it, but we don't recognize Halloween."IT'S A FALL theme. We have pumpkins, corn and fall decorations, but you don't see witches or spiders or anything tied to Halloween."Pollock compared it to the parties the schools have before winter break."We don't celebrate Christmas either; it's a 'winterfest' party," he said. "We really try to stay away from Halloween because it's more of a community thing. The city does a good job with trick-or-treat, so we leave it at that."At Miller and Craddock, Principal Patty Minrovic said they have had fall festivals for at least the last three or four year and possibly longer. She echoed Pollock's thoughts.She said it's an end-of-the-day party where children, if they choose, can dress up. There are treats and crafts, and stories read."We wanted to have something all children can celebrate without affecting anyone's family values or beliefs," she said. "We want everyone to be comfortable. We have it with lots of pumpkins and cozy foods. It takes away from the scariness; it's just a happy time."Minrovic said Miller and Craddock do a service project called "Halloween leftovers," in which students bring in extra candy and treats they got while trick-or-treating.Each classroom collects the candy and the school fills up boxes that are donated to area food banks and other places."We usually get 25 to 30 boxes," Minrovic said. "It's a great way to share treats with someone else. The students really enjoy seeing the boxes fill up."While "Halloween" may not technically be in schools anymore, candy and costumes are. And to most youngsters, that's probably all that matters.E-mail: bhovey@recordpub.comPhone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3115