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updated: 11/5/2013 11:49 PM

Dist. 220 nears decision on moving semester break

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Having heard more parental support and criticism Tuesday, Barrington Unit District 220 board members are nearing a decision on whether to end the first semester of school at Barrington High School before winter break rather than a few weeks after.

The school board will hear the administration's views on the advisory panel's recommendation at its next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, before possibly voting on it at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Barrington High School, 616 W. Main St. in Barrington.

Board President Brian Battle said that even if the recommended change is approved, it's still unclear whether it would be implemented as soon as the next school year.

While several parents spoke passionately in support of the recommendation at a public hearing Tuesday, others questioned its consequences.

Among the chief concerns was seeing the start of the school year creep ever earlier in August, as well as adding to the stress of student activities in December by placing final exams that month, too.

Barrington High School PTO President Claire Hamilton, who supports the change, thought this concern came largely from parents of students in the fine arts program. But she said spring athletes face the same crunch in May.

"There's always conflicts," Hamilton said. "It's always hard to balance classes with extracurriculars."

The recommendation was made by the required supermajority of the 35-member Input 220 Advisory Council in September, after months of research and deliberation.

The council's main task was to look into whether any changes to the district's school calendar might be beneficial to students without causing any unintended side effects.

The identified benefits of the recommendation were that moving final exams from January to December would remove the stress of study from winter break, make the two semesters more even in length, and achieve this without the possibility of the first day of the school year falling any earlier than the present Aug. 20.

Critics have voiced concerns about late-summer family vacations being disrupted, District 220 being thrown out of sync with other school districts, and a lack of educational research confirming any benefits to the change.

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