Parents in Barrington Community Unit School District 220 appear to be happy with the status quo -- at least when it comes to the school calendar.
Casting their votes with red stickers, parents at a public hearing Tuesday on possible changes in the school year supported keeping the calendar as is, with 95 school days in the first semester and 81 in the second.
That was among three options presented by Jeff Church and Caryn Behrens, co-chairs of the 35-member Input 220 committee that is looking into the school calendar. Church said one of the major issues driving the examination -- an outgrowth of the district's 2009 strategic plan -- is relieving students of the stress of going into winter break with first-semester finals looming upon their return.
"There was some thought (to) create a more natural break between semesters, that it would provide better instructional continuity and maybe alleviate some of the stress of the children who have to go home for that winter break and be worried about finals, which come a couple weeks after the end of break," he said.
After the status quo, the second option presented would offer a balanced schedule of 88 days per semester, with an earlier start to the school year on Aug. 11 and first-semester finals for high school students before winter break.
The third option would consist of a "flipped" schedule of 80 days in the first semester and 96 days in the second semester. As with option two, first-semester finals would take place before winter break.
One parent, John Powell, a teacher at Lake Park High School in Roselle, said his district made the shift to a more balanced schedule.
"It's been enormously successful," he said. "The kids love it because it ends their stress. The teachers love it because our grading is done, and it ends our stress."
But Powell was in the minority.
"I'm against the early start date," said parent Dave Valentino, whose comments received an ovation from others in the audience. "I value the family time I have in August,"
"I think that we really have to be careful about our days of summer, when they have an opportunity to be with their siblings and to be with their families, because those are the things that help them deal with stress," parent Gretchen Kozlowski added.
Church and Behrens said the Input 220 committee will review the comments from Tuesday's forum, as well as the results of an upcoming survey of parents, teachers and students. It will likely hold another public forum before making its recommendations to the school board. Any changes would occur during the 2014-15 school year at the earliest.