District 214 mulls later starts, less homework, shorter practices
Claiming teenagers today are overtired and overstressed by the demands of the high school environment, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 is considering a proposal for later start times, less weekend homework, and shorter athletic and co-curricular practices.
The District 214 school board is expected Thursday to discuss the proposal, so far the most dramatic among Northwest suburban school districts who have or are considering moving later the start of the high school day.
The District 214 calendar committee bases its recommendations on a survey from last year that got more than 6,500 responses, as well as data it got in listening sessions and from students, parents and teachers. The committee is made up of teachers and administrators, and its recommendations are supported by Superintendent David Schuler.
"In addition to just looking at when we have school, we wanted to engage in a conversation about the health and well-being of our students and our staff," Schuler said.
Under the recommendations sent home to parents and staff members Monday, all District 214 high schools would start at approximately 8:20 a.m. and end around 3:10 p.m. Now, most schools start around 7:30 a.m. and end around 2:45 p.m.
To eliminate any lost learning time, the district would eliminate late starts on Thursdays, shorten class periods from 50 minutes to 48 minutes, and shorten lunch periods from 50 minutes to 35 minutes.
Some details of the plan:
• Shorter lunch periods may cause more students to stay on campus. Schuler said cafeteria staffing can be adjusted, if needed.
• Professional development and teacher planning time now held on Thursday morning late starts could be done before school without delaying classes.
• Co-curricular activities should be held after school. If there is an exception, nothing should start earlier than 6:15 a.m.
• After-school co-curricular activities could not go more than two hours with the exception of varsity sports.
• After-school varsity athletic practices would be limited to two hours and 45 minutes each day, but the same team could not hold practices both before and after school on the same day.
• After-school practices, rehearsals or meetings all need to end by 7:30 p.m. Some exceptions would be allowed, such as the week of dress rehearsals before a school play.
"Some coaches might be concerned that the rest of the schools in the Mid-Suburban League aren't doing this, but that's OK," Schuler said. "We're in this for us and to ensure that our kids and adults are mentally, physically and emotionally healthy."
"If over the next three to five years we show no difference in our win-loss records and our students do better GPA-wise, then we will be the model other schools look to," he said.
Under the recommendations, except in unique circumstances, homework would not be assigned over Homecoming weekend, Thanksgiving break, winter break, Presidents Day weekend or spring break. The staff would also limit or refrain from doing lesson planning or grading over those breaks.
The District 214 high schools also would block out two weeks of the summer where there would be no competitions, summer camps or clinics -- to allow for family vacations and relaxation.
"Our kids need time to re-energize and our teachers do, too," Schuler said.
Schuler will present the recommendations at the school board meeting starting at 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Forest View Administrative Center, 2525 S. Goebbert Road, Arlington Heights. The changes could go into affect for the 2017-2018 school year.
Schuler said he believes these changes would ultimately create healthier and more productive students.
"I'm focused on making sure our kids enjoy their experience," Schuler said. "There is so much pressure and stress on them -- we have to do something to give them permission to take a few things off their plates."