More parents speak out against District 220 9:30 a.m. start time

 
 
Updated 2/24/2016 9:23 AM
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  • The District 220 school board meeting drew a crowd Tuesday night in Barrington for more discussion on later start times.

      The District 220 school board meeting drew a crowd Tuesday night in Barrington for more discussion on later start times. Doug T. Graham | Staff Photographer

Parents once again filled 300 folding chairs in the Barrington High School cafeteria for lengthy Barrington Area Unit School District 220 board discussions about later start times.

The meeting was the second of what will likely be many discussions about three start time proposals by Input 220, an advisory committee, to shift the school day later as a way to improve student health and learning.

The majority of the 40 people who signed up to speak during public comment said they agreed with the advisory committee that the high school day should start after 7:20 a.m. -- but not as late as 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m.

"I think we all agree we need to look at that," district parent Tim Carter said. "What's come back to us feels like very extreme proposals."

Parent Melinda Brown urged the board not to act based on what she viewed as slanted information provided by Input 220.

"Please don't gamble (the district's) success on agendas," Brown said.

Nitin Soorya, an Input 220 board member, responded by sharing that a difference in opinion on start times is present in his own home.

"I'm married to the devil's advocate," Soorya said, drawing some chuckles from the crowd. "This is the source of a lot of heated arguments at home."

The largest applause of the night went to Kristen Lewis, a Barrington High School teacher who presented a survey of 142 of the 207 Barrington High teachers. The results revealed that teachers were generally against the advisory committee's recommendation, with 68 percent believing academic achievement would suffer and 65 percent saying class periods should stay at 49 minutes. Input 220's plans would reduce the length of a class period to 43 minutes at the shortest.

Ron Metcalf, the teachers union president and an Input 220 member who voted for the committee's proposals, said more work is needed to find the best answer.

"While science is clear, the solution in Barrington is not," Metcalf said. "BEA is committed to working with the board to come to a solution to this issue."

Parent Christine Bedard, who co-founded the group Barrington United for Education to oppose Input 220's recommendations, said 500 people have signed the group's petition so far.

Even after a pair of three-hour discussions on start times, the board members have yet to deliberate the topic among themselves. Board President Brian Battle said he hopes the board will get an opportunity to do that at next Tuesday night's meeting.

In addition to the 300 people who attended the meeting, 133 watched on the district's live stream.

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