Dist. 121 wants students to get off to better start
Board members at Warren Township High School in Gurnee let the data do the talking Tuesday night before deciding against pursuing the idea of later start times for students.
What the data compiled by administrators shows, said Warren District 121 Superintendent John Ahlgrim, is it may not matter when pupils start school, but rather how they start.
"We don't know if starting later undoes the cycle of what we're seeing," Ahlgrim told board members and administrators at the special session.
Freshmen and sophomores generally start at 8:25 a.m. at Warren's O'Plaine Road building. Junior and seniors at the Almond Road campus typically begin school at 7:25 a.m.
What the numbers from this year's first semester showed Tuesday night is the freshmen and sophomores who start at 8:25 a.m. received the second-worst grade-point average for the first class of the day at 2.87. They had a 3.0 GPA for the second class of the day -- the highest of eight periods.
Juniors and seniors starting at 7:25 a.m. had a 2.82 grade-point average for the first class of the day, which was the worst of their eight periods. Just like the younger students at the O'Plaine Road campus, the second period for the Almond pupils proved to be the best at a 2.96 GPA.
Officials agreed they'll seek ways to get students and even teachers off to a better day at school instead of altering when classes start.
Carol Rogers, District 121's assistant superintendent for business, said having better breakfast offerings at the schools could help. She said it would behoove the district to seek food-service providers that name breakfast a priority.
Warren officials acknowledged research showing teenage students benefit from starting school later in the morning, but pointed to the data presented Tuesday night that illustrated other factors may be at play.
Ahlgrim said some students may be getting to school tired because they are up too late with computer devices or at a coffeehouse.
"Some things are out of our control regardless of when we start school," he said.
Possible options that were floated were having the O'Plaine and Almond campuses each start at 8:30 a.m. Another was to flip the younger O'Plaine students to an early schedule and have the older Almond pupils start later.
"As I think about flipping start times at schools," board member Thomas Drake said, "I don't think that addresses the question that came up, which was, 'We think our students are starting too early.' I think it takes a problem from one campus and puts it to another."