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updated: 3/14/2013 12:13 AM

Dist. 15 parents prefer early dismissal to late start

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Although a vote won't take place until next month, signs point to the Palatine Township Elementary District 15 board backing parents' wishes over those of the teachers on next year's start and dismissal times.

That means most of the roughly 12,000 students would end their week 45 minutes early at either 1:40 p.m. or 2:35 p.m. every Friday to allow for professional development time among the district's 830 teachers.

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The Classroom Teachers' Council, which negotiated the time allocation in its new four-year contract, wants a late Wednesday start.

"I'm ... leaning toward early Friday dismissal," board member Scott Herr said. "I think it has a huge impact on families. It's clear there was a strong preference and that it affects a lot of people."

Superintendent Scott Thompson on Wednesday presented the results of the district's most recent survey in front of a packed boardroom.

Of the 3,600 respondents, 1,479 marked early Friday dismissal as their top choice. A late Monday start finished second with 885 votes while just 112 people chose a late Wednesday start as their first preference.

"It's a challenging decision. ... It's not going to make some people happy," board President Tim Millar said, adding that he, too, is leaning toward a Friday early dismissal.

Thompson said the district tried to work collaboratively and transparently on the issue, starting by forming a committee in November. It sought parent input through two surveys and held an emotionally charged community forum in January, prompted largely by hundreds of petition signatures opposing the teachers' proposal.

Thompson cited a study that shows schools that set aside professional development time outperform schools that don't.

He said teachers will use the block to address issues such as new common core state standards, positive behavior intervention systems, curriculum development and police/fire training.

No area elementary district has a late start, but several have some sort of early dismissal system for professional development time. Thompson said the union declined to attend to make its case at the board meeting, but representatives have said they felt Wednesday morning would prove the most productive.

Whatever proposal is chosen, no instructional time would be lost since the other school days would be extended by 10 minutes.

Board member Manjula Sriram declined to disclose her upcoming vote because the issue involves the teachers' contract, but she said that as a parent, she also prefers an early Friday dismissal.

"I look at it from a safety standpoint," Sriram said. "I'd rather my kids come home and just have to open the door while I'm at work as opposed to them closing up the house when they leave."

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