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Task force recommends 8:45 a.m. start time

Students+enter+the+school+at+7%3A30+a.m.%0APicture+taken+by+Luc+Gudmundson
Students enter the school at 7:30 a.m.
Picture taken by Luc Gudmundson

Students enter the school at 7:30 a.m. Picture taken by Luc Gudmundson

Students enter the school at 7:30 a.m. Picture taken by Luc Gudmundson

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Teenagers are notorious for their sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep is a common complaint among VHHS students. Because of this, a lot of students have been hoping that school will be pushed back to a later start time next year, with many rumors about whether or not this is going to happen circulating around the school. Most students seem to be convinced that next year school won’t be starting as early in the morning. Shea Neary (10) confirms this thought.

“I’ve heard rumors about school starting later from friends and classmates,” Neary said. “I am glad that this is a possibility because students, in my opinion, need more sleep during the weeknights, and that is difficult when there is so much assigned work and we have to wake up at 6 a.m. the next day.”

This rumor has some truth to it. There is currently talk at the district level about the possibility of starting school later. While the Later Start Time Task Force has made a recommendation, nothing has been decided. The teachers union and school board first need to negotiate next year’s teacher contract, and then the board needs to approve a later start time.

Dr. Rita Fischer, the district assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, explained the makeup and purpose of the task force that looked into the matter.

“The Later Start Time Task Force includes students, parents, teachers, staff members, and administrators. It was formed to investigate the benefits of a later start time for students and to make recommendations regarding the start and end time of the school day,” said Fischer.

This task force looked into various studies and data regarding the benefits and drawbacks of school starting later. One thing that they tried to focus on is the voices of students. Recently, both Vernon Hills and Libertyville students sat down with teachers during their lunch periods to talk about their opinions. Sage Brenner, Vernon Hills senior, was on the Later Start Time Task Force and explained how the task force decided upon their recommendation.

“The issue is that there are so many factors that go into it. For instance, you can’t have school end too late because of sports, but you can’t have morning practices starting at 6 a.m. because that defeats the whole purpose of having a later start time. Essentially, we had to figure out all of these issues with the schedule,” Brenner said.

One change with the recommended later start time would be the removal of late starts. Since every day would start a little bit later, students wouldn’t get an hour and 20 minutes off on Wednesdays. This has some students upset, as late start Wednesdays have been a part of VHHS culture. Leah Wilkowski (11) is against the change.

“Having a late start in the middle of the week is exciting for me. It’s something to look forward to,” Wilkowski said.
Wilkowski also expressed concern with how morning practices for sports will be affected, as well as how late after school practices could go.

On Monday, Dec. 11, the Later Start Time Task Force made their recommendation to the District 128 Board of Education. Dr. Fischer reported the task force’s process to the board, stating that they discussed many of the same topics that Brenner brought up. After school activities, along with early bird classes and before school activities, were difficulties that the Task Force tried to tackle.

Two schedule recommendations have been given to the Board of Education as possibilities for next year. However, a final decision has not been made.

Another factor in the decision-making process is the teachers union. Teachers’ contracts determine the length of the teacher work day, as teachers are contractually obligated to be in school for a certain amount of time every day. With the school start time being pushed back, the length of the school day changing is a distinct possibility. According to Union Secretary Joseph Regan, the teachers union will enter negotiations with the school board and they will work together to determine the length of the teacher work day.

Neither the Later Start Time Task Force nor the Teachers Union was able to comment on when a final decision will be officially adopted.

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