District 220 pushes back high, middle school start times

 
 
Updated 11/8/2016 10:23 PM
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  • Barrington High School students will begin their school days 70 minutes later next year under a plan intended to give teens more sleep.

    Barrington High School students will begin their school days 70 minutes later next year under a plan intended to give teens more sleep. Daily Herald File Photo

Barrington High School students will begin their school day 70 minutes later next year under a schedule approved by the Barrington Area Unit School District 220 board Tuesday night.

Board members voted 5-2 for Option A, one of three proposals that came out of more than 18 months of discussion and debate over the best time to begin the school day.

Under the plan, Barrington 220's elementary schools will begin at 8 a.m., an hour earlier, and end at 2:40 p.m., and the district's two middle schools will start the day at 9 a.m., back from 7:55 a.m., and end the day at 3:55 p.m. The high school will start the day at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:21 p.m.

The plan will cost the district an estimated $343,200 per year, as long as the state continues providing District 220 with transportation money.

Voting in favor of Option A were board President Brian Battle and board members Penny Kazmier, Sandra Ficke-Bradford, Wendy Farley and Joe Ruffolo. Voting against were Chris Geier and Angela Wilcox.

Battle said the board members who voted for Option A believed it better fit with what the sleep science research said. Under the new schedule, the district's teenagers will start their day later but elementary school students won't.

"The research about elementary school kids said they were fairly flexible among early and late starts," Battle said. "We know they do get fatigued in the late afternoon with the current 9 a.m. start time."

Battle said now that the decision has been made the district will begin doing what is necessary to implement the policy next school year.

"That's why we made the decision in November, so we can make a smooth transition," he said.

The start time discussion began in February 2015, when the district formed the input 220 advisory committee made up of parents and community members. The group studied scientific data on the affect of start times on student health and concluded that the existing district bell schedule wasn't optimized for student learning.

This February, the input 220 committee told the board that research indicates sleep deprivation led to increases in depression, teen suicide, obesity and car crashes. The group also recommended three start time scenarios for the board to consider, including one option that would have started Barrington High School students' day at 9:30 a.m. The school currently starts classes at 7:20 a.m.

The committee's suggested start times caused an uproar among parents concerned that 9:30 a.m. was too late to begin school and would lead to less instruction time.

In the eight months since, the board devised its own three options and heard from the community.

The board had long planned on making the final decision Nov. 1 but had to reschedule last week.

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