Weekly Late Start Proposed at November Board Meeting

District 219 logo.

District 219 logo.

By Emma Schieffer, Opinions Editor

A weekly late start schedule was proposed at D219’s November Board Meeting that will affect both Niles West and Niles North. The proposal included a weekly 9:40 a.m. school start time. According to the proposal, this late start will have substantial benefits to both teachers and students, including more collaboration and time to unwind during the week. The board will revisit the proposal before voting, and no date has been decided on when the voting will take place.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Sandra Arreguin and Executive Director of Student Services and Special Education Bridget Connolly presented the proposal and rationale for a weekly late start. The idea for implementing a late start came from other schools in the area having added similar late starts/early releases.

The cause of the proposal was teachers and students in the district feeling that their work was interfering with their mental health and personal lives. Teachers specifically have felt that there isn’t enough time to reach and complete goals they have set for themselves.

“What we know about educators is that if you have structured, deliberate [and] professional learning time, that is the best opportunity to accomplish the goals that have been set forth by the board. Right now we have a handful of late start days each month but what we have learned is that it is definitely not enough time to accomplish some of these goals that we really would like to,” Connolly said.

Arreguin provided that they are looking to have a collective agreement for a weekly late start between teachers and students.

“When it comes down to our strategic plan ultimately no matter what the goal, what the priority, what the metrics are what we’re looking at is we want to prove outcomes for our students … I want to really emphasize that what we’re aiming for is this idea of collective efficacy. We are all moving together towards the same goal and that involves the voices of everyone in the organization” Arreguin said.

One main benefit discussed in the presentation was the added time to collaborate. The presentation assured that students will still meet the required hours of in-class teaching required for a school year. There is estimated to be an increase in the quality of teaching, as teachers will have more time to work with colleagues and plan lessons.

There are both students and teachers who have supported the addition of a late start, with the mutual agreement that they’ve faced added stress and little time to relax. With the one asynchronous day of school each week implemented into last year’s schedule, teachers especially saw success with having a break in the week.

“Everyday school leaves me completely physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially exhausted, and I still have extracurricular activities and homework every day. Having a weekly late start would give me and many other students time to recharge so I could have more energy to dedicate to my academics, relationships, and extracurricular activities,” Niles North senior Lee Buell said in the public comment forum.

Hypothetically, students who feel overwhelmed with both in-school and out-of-school activities will be able to use this time to catch up on late work and relax. However, the implementation of this program in the near future is not encouraged by all teachers.

“So while I and many of my colleagues would support more late start or early release time so that we don’t have to bring so much work home after the workday has ended or on the weekends, we don’t want to see this plan implemented in the middle of the school year,” AP World History teacher Melanie Johnson said.

Members of the board followed up on the presentation with questions, requesting more information to be presented at a later date.

Board member Ignacio Lopez worked in a different school district with a similar weekly setup and expressed one concern with teachers and the “longevity” of this idea.

“It worked for some time but I’m also curious to not just [other schools] that are doing this, but the longevity of why they’ve kept doing it. Because in my experience, it sort of begins to lose its meaning and a lot of teachers were just calling off on Wednesdays,” Lopez said.

“I am urging the board to only consider this proposal after legitimate teacher, student and parent feedback have been solicited and a proposal that meets all the needs of those affected can be fleshed out,” Johnson said.

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, the school sent out an email and survey seeking student input on adopting this weekly late start. The survey included this description: “The District 219 Board of Education is considering a weekly late start on Wednesdays. Some board members would like student feedback on this proposal,” and asked one question: “Would you support a weekly (Wednesday) late start?” The survey also included another box for students’ thoughts on the matter.

The projected start date of this program has not been decided due to the board wanting more information in regards to the program.