District 50 board expected to vote on later school start times

Editor's note: This article was changed to clarify information on the upcoming information meeting.

The Woodland Elementary District 50 school board is expected to vote on later school start times for the 2019-20 academic year this month.

District officials will host a community information meeting on the subject Thursday, Dec. 13, in Gurnee. There will be a short presentation on the schedule, followed by participants being able to offer ideas and ask questions.

In March, board members decided they wanted to change the start times because of the health benefits for students. Board President Carla Little said the timing gave district staff time to work through the details.

"We have excellent administrators and staff who come up with creative solutions that benefit the children," Little said. "We want to ensure that we're creating the best learning environment for our children."

Many health authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advocate starting school for older children no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to ensure students get enough sleep.

Currently, District 50 middle school students begin their day at 7:30 a.m.; fourth- and fifth-grade students begin at 8:10 a.m.; first-, second- and third-graders begin at 8:50 a.m.; and preschool and kindergarten children begin at 9:20 a.m.

The proposed schedule calls for middle school students to begin their day at 8:35 a.m.; fourth- and fifth-grade students to begin at 9:15 a.m.; first-, second- and third-graders to begin at 7:45 a.m.; and preschool and kindergarten children to begin at 7:50 a.m.

Carolyn Waller Gordon, the district's communication manager, said the district worked out a busing plan that will not require leasing more buses, keeping costs the same.

Gordon said the schedule change isn't expected to affect any after-school sports, programs or clubs.

The district will host the information meeting on the proposed start times at 6 p.m. at Woodland Intermediate School, 1115 N. Hunt Club Road, Gurnee. A community forum was held in October.

The plan will then come up for a vote at the school board's next meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 20. Residents can also comment at that time.

If District 50 implements the change, it would join a larger movement among suburban school districts that have pushed start times later, including Stevenson and Barrington high schools and the various Northwest Suburban High School District 214 campuses. Some middle schools have shifted to a later start as well.

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