After a bitter debate that pitted teachers against parents, scheduling changes went into effect Friday in Palatine Township Elementary District 15.
Most of the district's roughly 12,000 students got out of classes 45 minutes earlier to give teachers time for professional training.
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The move forced some schools to cancel extracurricular activities and working parents to adjust their child care.
The district also added an extra 10 minutes to the school day the rest of the week. Officials say the changes did not reduce instructional time.
Jon Coscio, whose daughter is a second-grader at Gray M. Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine, said he still fears the training will eat away at instruction down the road as the district adopts new curriculum standards.
"Somebody's got to pay for that," Coscio said.
Jody Nieman, a preschool teacher in a private school, said she's thrilled her kids will be home nearly an hour earlier, a plus for when the family goes on vacation.
"It's a win-win situation," Nieman said.
While Superintendent Scott Thompson said the early release poses an inconvenience for some parents, the district will continue to review the schedule in the coming months to ensure a smooth transition.
Plans for a new schedule began when the district approved a contract with the teachers union that provided time for professional development.
A divided school board in May agreed with vocal parents who backed early dismissals on Fridays as being less disruptive to family life than the late arrival on Wednesdays teachers lobbied for.
In response, the Classroom Teachers' Council filed a labor grievance claiming the district violated terms of the contract that called for a late start unless there is "overwhelming opposition from parents." The district denied the grievance, sending the dispute to arbitration.
In October, the arbiter ruled in favor of the early release.
Teachers spent about an hour Friday after classes in a session on how to integrate technology into the classroom.
Union President Lisa Nuss called it a "productive use of time."
"This is a benefit to students when we are improving our practice," Nuss said. "It's important to have that continual training."
The loss of some extracurricular activities that were scheduled for Friday afternoons affects mostly junior high students, Nuss said. Some will be moved to other days of the week. "Right now, there's some constraints, and we have to live within those constraints," she said.