District 230 board member Kathy Quilty said the district might be putting the cart in front of the horse in adding a half hour to the school day for the 2013-14 school year. Photo by Jeff Vorva
By Jeff Vorva
High School District 230 board member Kathy Quilty said it might have been a mistake to make the district’s plans to add a half hour to the school day public, given that there are more questions than answers.
Board members Wednesday last week agreed that starting the day at 8 a.m. rather than 8:30 a.m. at Stagg, Sandburg and Andrew High Schools in order for students to spend more time with their teachers was a good idea.
But whether it should start in August or in the 2014-15 school year was still up for debate.
“I’m not against this but we put the cart in front of the horse,” Quilty told the board, meeting at Stagg High School. “We were told it’s going to happen in 2014-15. Things should have been eased into. I don’t think we should have brought this to the public until we had a presentation. I can’t go to Jewel without someone coming up to me complaining. My phone is ringing. I’m getting e-mail from parents who are upset and I’m not sure how to answer them.
“We don’t have answers and we have, what, eight weeks of school left? And the teachers are coming back in August and told ‘this is what you’re expected to do.’ It’s not fair to the staff.”
Superintendent James Gay urged the addition of the half hour to the board at its meeting Feb. 28.
Even though District 230 administrators said solid curriculum plans were in place and that teachers were apprised of a possible change starting in August, board Vice President Rick Nogal wants more assurances.
“We have our work cut out for us and I’m concerned about some chaos come August,” Nogal said. “The teachers are an important part of this process and I would like to hear what they say about this. I haven’t heard directly what they have to say. That is a big focal question in my mind so I am reserving judgment.”
Outgoing board member Laura Murphy was in favor of getting the clock running on this change.
“There was an advantage to putting it out to the public,” Murphy said. “Like Kathy, I heard from a lot of parents. But what I’ve heard is very positive. Speaking as a parent of a 14-year-old who will be an incoming freshman, I’m all for it. I don’t want to waste a year.”
Quilty argued that an earlier start time to the day would mean kids would have to get up earlier and some parents with students involved in extracurricular activities told her they might not want such a long day. Quilty also expressed concern over the length of time between leaving home early and the lunch break.
Board member Patrick O’Sullivan said those issues could be ironed out.
“The first year is going to be tough, no matter if it’s this year or next year,” O’Sullivan said. “And four years from now, it’s going to look a lot different than the first year.”
Thus far, this has only reached the discussion and informational stage for the board. But come April or May, action will likely have to be taken.
“Is this 30 minutes worthwhile?” outgoing Board President Frank Grabowski said. “We have two choices. You put all 30 at the beginning. You put all 30 at the end. Or it’s a math problem. You put 15 in the front or you put 15 in the back. Is it worthwhile to allow that contact time for our students to be with our staff at the start of next year? That’s what we have to decide. The feedback that we’re receiving is ‘yes we need to do this and we need to do it sooner rather than later.’”