Board OKs new school start times

Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board members tonight approved a compromise set of school start times that will take effect next fall.

The plan adopted will see the elementary school day run from 9:05 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. Middle School students will be in school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. And students at the district’s magnet schools will attend classes from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

The decision to change start times was triggered by agreement with the district’s teachers’ union to extend the school day by 10 minutes for elementary students and 20 minutes for middle school students to provide additional instructional time.

The compromise schedule moves the start for middle school students a half hour later than the current schedule, in an effort to respond to research that suggests students that age don’t perform well early in the morning.

It also tries to preserve at least some of the savings in school busing costs that the current schedule offers by letting the same school bus serve two school routes at different times.

School officials say the new schedule will reduce the number of combined bus routes and will likely raise transportation costs between $31,000 and $57,000 a year.

The board also approved a proposal to ask the state to grant a waiver of the Columbus Day school holiday. That change would see students attend classes on Columbus Day but have the day before Thanksgiving as a holiday instead.

Parents groups had advocated the change as a way to provide more consistent instruction early in the school year and reduce the schedule disruptions for families in which parents have to work on Columbus Day.

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