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posted: 12/18/2013 12:04 AM

Barrington H.S. finals moved before winter break

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Barrington High School students will take final exams three times in 2014, due to the school board's 4-2 vote Tuesday to move the end of first semester from January to before winter break next school year.

Barrington Unit District 220's final decision to follow the recommendation of a 35-member advisory panel and make the change was no more smooth and unanimous at the end than it was at any other point during the nearly yearlong process.

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While supporters of the change to create a school calendar more closely resembling those of universities often seemed to be in the majority, some critics were never convinced that the benefits would outweigh the disruption of a tried-and-true model.

Among those was Board Member Wendy Farley, who joined colleague Richard Burkhart in voting against the change. Though Burkhart cast his vote by phone, Board Member Christopher Geier was entirely absent from the meeting.

Farley echoed the concerns of some parents who spoke at the meeting that the survey that started the study seemed to steer respondents in a particular direction. Furthermore, all the comments made in the survey haven't yet been made readily available, she said.

While Farley agreed with some benefits of the change, she felt they were outweighed by moving six days of summer vacation from the better weather of August to June, and that the stress of finals is only being shifted to the busier and more stressful month of December.

"I've given this a lot of thought," Farley said. "This is one of those areas where reasonable people can disagree."

Board Member Joseph Ruffolo, a high school teacher himself in a district that made the same change four years ago, said he was among those who did disagree with Farley.

Ruffolo said his 25 years in education have shown him the expected benefits of the change are real.

"If you live it, you can see it," Ruffolo said. "It does make a difference."

He also defended the integrity of the survey but said that even without it, the research and recommendation of the Input 220 Advisory Council this year were based on a solid foundation.

Finals: New schedule will be closer to that of universities

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