The Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 school board has delayed a decision on cutting class times by as much as 70 minutes a day at the Ridge Family Center for Learning.
The board, however, did agree at a meeting Monday night to extend instructional times at 12 other district schools by a half-hour as part of Superintendent Art Fessler's "One District" plan that includes giving all elementary schools the same school day in 2014-15.
The proposed school day changes were proposed by district officials during negotiations over a five-year teachers contract extension, which was approved Monday on a 5-0 vote of the board. The contract language regarding start and dismissal times has remained unchanged -- that it shall be determined by the school board.
Board members agreed with Fessler's recommendation that elementary schools have 6-hour, 50-minute days, and junior high schools have 7-hour, 5-minute days four days a week. Class times would be an hour shorter on Wednesday to account for teacher development meetings. However, board members said more discussion was needed about Ridge, District 59's K-5 "school of choice" that currently has an eight-hour day.
The district conducts an annual lottery to determine which students will be enrolled at Ridge.
An estimated 200 people, many of them Ridge parents, packed the board's meeting Monday night at Grove Junior High School. A petition signed by some 90 parents opposed to shortening Ridge's day was presented to the board.
"Ridge is an example to other schools what works in education," said Jennifer Molawa, whose two children attend Ridge. "It's a special place in our district. It is not broken. Please do not try to fix it."
Jackie Fries, whose four children attend Ridge, said, "I'm certain spending additional dollars to maintain the Ridge Family Center for Learning as status quo that these students will continue to strive academically, physically and spiritually. I plead with the board to spend additional district funds to keep Ridge open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. four days a week."
To maintain Ridge's schedule, district officials have said it would cost an extra $280,000 to add seven more bus routes and $70,000 in teacher stipends.
As part of the approved teachers contract, Ridge teachers won't be getting stipends they had been receiving for working a longer day.
"When we put this schedule together, it represented what the board (negotiating) team and the (District 59 Education Association) team tentatively agreed to," Fessler said. "It creates a message we're trying to send that we can accomplish a world-class education in 6 hours and 50 minutes at all of our schools."
Board member Seana McPherson suggested the board have a discussion on the long-term role of Ridge within District 59 -- whether the board wants a school of choice, and if so, what it would look like in the future.
The next board meeting is scheduled for May 12.