Later starts recommended for Libertyville, Vernon Hills high schools

 
 
Updated 12/13/2017 9:13 PM
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  • Rita Fischer, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128, talks to the school board Monday about a task force's recommendation to delay daily start times.

    Rita Fischer, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128, talks to the school board Monday about a task force's recommendation to delay daily start times. Courtesy of District 128

  • Rita Fischer, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128.

    Rita Fischer, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128.

A task force has recommended starting the day later at Libertyville High School and Vernon Hills High School beginning next fall.

Responding to studies that show teens benefit from more sleep, the group -- composed of teachers, administrators, students and parents -- has suggested an 8:45 a.m. start time at both District 128 campuses. Classes would end at 3:25 p.m. each day at both schools.

This year, Libertyville High classes begin 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 schedules have been in place since Vernon Hills High opened in 1999.

Rita Fischer, District 128's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, led the task force and presented the group's findings to the school board Monday.

In addition to setting a new daily start time, the task force proposed shortening class periods to 45 minutes each, from 50 minutes.

The group also recommended against scheduling more club practices or student activities before school begins. Such activities sometimes are held before school because of scheduling and space conflicts, Fischer said.

However, task force members recognized the need for the schools to continue offering a limited number of voluntary classes before first period. Some physical education courses and AP science labs are held early.

Officials are considering adjusting the daily schedule because 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.

School districts that have pushed start times later have seen an improvement in student performance, experts have said. More sleep can also lead to better teen mental health and behavior.

"The research studied by our task force clearly indicates that the teenage brain is wired for sleep times that begin later at night, and that they require at least eight hours of sleep," Fischer said. "We believe that our students would benefit greatly if we implement the recommended adjustments in our daily schedule."

Several suburban schools have heeded that research and delayed daily start times in recent years, including Stevenson High and Barrington High and the various Northwest Suburban High School District 214 campuses. Some middle schools have shifted to a later start, too.

The District 128 task force is recommending the changes begin in the 2018-19 school year.

The board took no action on the plan Monday. Before a new schedule can be implemented, the various elements of the plan need to be negotiated and approved as part of the faculty labor contract, district spokeswoman Mary Todoric said.

The teachers union and administrators are discussing the terms of a new contract now, as the current pact expires in June 2018. A board vote on the contract hasn't been scheduled.

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