Parents, after-school programs brace for District 220 schedule changes

 
 
Posted11/14/2016 5:30 AM
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  • Barrington Park District officials say they may expand their K.E.E.P. before- and after-school program at Lines Elementary School in Barrington and other locations to adjust for schedule changes enacted last week by Barrington Area Unit District 220 officials.

      Barrington Park District officials say they may expand their K.E.E.P. before- and after-school program at Lines Elementary School in Barrington and other locations to adjust for schedule changes enacted last week by Barrington Area Unit District 220 officials. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Connor Raia, 8, left, and 6-year-old Nick Decowski, play a game with Barrington Park District counselor Erik Hernandez during the K.E.E.P. program at Lines Elementary School in Barrington.

      Connor Raia, 8, left, and 6-year-old Nick Decowski, play a game with Barrington Park District counselor Erik Hernandez during the K.E.E.P. program at Lines Elementary School in Barrington. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • 10-year-old Daniel Pashkow, left, and 10-year-old Nathan Cook, catch up on their homework during the K.E.E.P. program at Lines Elementary School in Barrington.

      10-year-old Daniel Pashkow, left, and 10-year-old Nathan Cook, catch up on their homework during the K.E.E.P. program at Lines Elementary School in Barrington. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Now that the Barrington Area Unit School District 220 board of education has voted to change school start times in an effort to improve student health and wellness, parents of elementary school students are looking for answers on how they can adjust to the new schedule.

While most of the attention during the district's 18 months of discussion on start times has focused on pushing back the opening bell for high school and middle school students, the district's eight elementary schools will start an hour earlier, at 8 a.m., next school year under the plan approved Tuesday.

Dozens of elementary students' parents vented their frustrations regarding the change on the district's Facebook page Tuesday night. Among the top complaints was that parents would have to find a place to keep their child after classes, which now will end at 2:40 p.m.

District 220 spokeswoman Morgan Delack said that is a top priority for the district as well.

"That is the first thing the administration is looking at in terms of operational considerations that need to be addressed because of the start time change," she said.

While the district has months to find solutions, officials already are working with the Barrington Park District to expand the popular K.E.E.P. program, which provides a structured environment for students before and after school.

Teresa Jennings, the executive director of the park district, said officials are examining how they can adapt the program to suit the new schedule.

The program currently operates at three of the six District 220 elementary schools located within the park district's boundaries, but it may be expanded to all six.

"This is something we take seriously, there is such a need for it," Jennings said. "Even though there is an impact to us, we are going to make it the best we can.

"We don't want to dwell on what impact is going to be, we want families to be reassured that we will be there to provide before and after school," she added.

District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris concurred, adding that they have met several times in the months leading up to the board's decision and plan to meet again Tuesday.

Harris said they also are working with the district's partners at the two elementary schools that fall outside the Barrington Park District's boundaries.

At Barbara B. Rose Elementary school, the district has a partnership with the South Barrington Park District, and at Sunny Hill Elementary School in Carpentersville, they have a partnership with the local Boys and Girls Club.

"Our priority is to work with our current partners," Harris said. "If for whatever reason they can't fulfill the scope, we'd take the next step and speak to private providers. But that's secondary, that's more down the line."

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 effect of start times on student health and concluded that the existing district bell schedule wasn't optimized for student learning.

The plan the board chose moves the start time back for middle and high school students so they can get more sleep, which research shows helps their mental health and decreases the rates of car crashes and suicides.

The day for elementary school kids is moving up, but school board President Brian Battle said last week that the research says those kids are fairly flexible among early and late starts.

The current schedule leads to elementary school students getting fatigued in the late afternoon, he added.

Expanding the before- and after-school care options for parents is just one of several adjustments the district will have to account for before the 2017-2018 school year begins, but Harris said he is confident they have plenty of time to work through them.

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