Barrington school board takes up start time debate Tuesday
Moving back the start time of classes at Barrington High School is a matter of students' physical and mental health, according to a leader of a Barrington Area Unit School District 220 panel that has studied ways to improve school schedules.
"Increased risk of depression, further risk of suicide, obesity" are among the consequences of teenagers not getting enough sleep, said Paul Sheedy, a co-chairman of the Input 220 advisory committee recommending a later start to the school day at Barrington High. "You scratch your head and wonder how start times ever got this early, but you know there's a fix."
Input 220's three proposals to shift start times, made public Feb. 3, will be presented for the first time to the District 220 board of education Tuesday night.
But moving the start of classes from the current 7:20 a.m. to as late as 9 or 9:30 a.m. may require shorter class periods or changing to a college-style block schedule with longer, but fewer, classes per day. Both ideas have drawn opposition from some parents and students.
"We're not opposed to pushing back a start time. We're opposed to doing that at the cost of instructional time," said Christine Bedard, who co-founded the group Barrington United for Education to oppose Input 220's recommendations. "A solution that creates more problems than it solves is not a solution."
District 220 is one of several suburban school districts to consider pushing back the start of classes amid growing evidence that teens aren't getting enough sleep, leading to physical and mental health problems, academic struggles and even more car accidents.
Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire last year agreed to push the start time from 8:05 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Other districts weighing changes include Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Elgin Area District U-46 and Naperville District 203.
All three options recommended by Input 220 would start the elementary school day at 8 a.m., the middle school day at 8:50 a.m., and the high school day at either at 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m.
Sheedy said the committee talked with Barrington High School teachers and administrators throughout the nearly yearlong process of coming up with the recommendation. They believe they can deliver the same quality education with less instructional time and more rested students, he said.
"Our partners in this, the principal and teachers, have said, 'We can take it from there,'" Sheedy said.
One thought that Sheedy says keeps returning to is how much better he believes the already high-achieving Barrington High students will be with more sleep.
"All they do now is in spite of a 7:20 a.m. start time," he said. "I can't imagine what it is going to look like if our students can show up fully rested."
Bedard said about 30 people attended Barrington United for Education's first meeting last week, and an online petition opposing Input 220's recommendations had 199 signatures as of Monday morning. Among the reasons for their opposition is that in some instances, class periods would be reduced from 49 minutes to 43 minutes.
"If we stood by in silence it would look like we were agreeing with the proposals," Bedard said.
Like their parents, Barrington High students are weighing in on both sides of the issue. More than 250 have signed a student petition online protesting the proposed changes.
But others, like junior Grant Bernero, said he's now backing the proposals.
"I think the public could be more educated on the issue before they make petitions against it," Bernero said. "But I think (Input 220) should try to express their info in a more accessible manner."
The board of education meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria of Barrington High School, 616 W Main St. in Barrington.