Will District 128 students start their days later next year?
Moved by health experts who say teens benefit from more sleep, District 128 officials may change the daily start times at Libertyville High School and Vernon Hills High.
A task force studying the issue hopes to have a recommendation for new bell schedules ahead of the 2018-19 school year, said team leader Rita Fischer, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128.
This year, Libertyville High students and staffers start their day at 7:30 a.m. and wrap up at 2:50 p.m. At Vernon Hills High, the school day starts at 7:55 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m.
Those start and end times have been in place since Vernon Hills High opened in 1999.
But some health authorities -- including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- advocate starting middle school and high school classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to ensure students get enough sleep.
Experts have said school districts that have pushed start times later have seen an improvement in student performance. More sleep also leads to better teen mental health and better behavior, said Brenda Nelson, the prevention and wellness coordinator at Libertyville High and a self-described "sleep zealot."
Studies show tardiness and absences decrease when school starts later, too, Nelson said.
District 128 administrators began looking into the issue after receiving multiple inquiries from students, parents, teachers and school board members, Fischer told the board Monday night.
Elsewhere in the suburbs, Barrington Area Unit District 220 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214 pushed start times later this year. Stevenson High School District 125 took the same step last year.
In District 128, a small group of teachers and administrators took up the cause first. The task force has since grown to include more staffers as well as students and parents from both schools.
Everyone on the task force supports later starts, Fischer said.
The group next meets Nov. 6, and Fischer said members could reach consensus on a proposal at that session.
Simultaneous start times for both campuses are possible, Fischer said, as are staggered starts like the current schedules.
The duration of class periods within the school day could change at one or both campuses, too. On most days, periods typically are 50 minutes long at both schools.
It's up to the District 128 board to enact any changes to the daily schedule.