Dist. 86 mulls more early release days

Administrators say they want to bring consistency to schedule, but some have reservations

Hinsdale Central students would get out of school by 1 p.m. Wednesdays most weeks during the year under recommended changes to the district’s calendar.

At the March 10 Hinsdale High School District 86 committee of the whole meeting, board members discussed a proposal from the district’s calendar committee to replace the current mix of late-start Mondays and flex-learning Wednesdays with early-release Wednesdays.

Central Principal Bill Walsh said the shifting rhythms to make time for professional development resulted in confusion for students and families.

“It became a consistency problem what the start time was for students,” Walsh told board members.

Chris Covino, assistant superintendent for instruction, said class times will also be better balanced throughout the day. On late-start Mondays now, several periods have classes that are 10 minutes shorter than the lunch periods. And he noted late-start days typically generate a disproportionate number of tardies.

“Even though they’re allowed to come late, they come even later,” Covino related. “That’s something the deans have been frustrated about and teachers, too.”

The proposal was reviewed by several district groups and committees, Covino said, and he noted move to early-release Wednesdays would reduce instructional minutes by a total of one hour for the entire school year.

“What it does get us is more consistent start times and it provides that (teacher) resource time on Wednesday afternoons,” he said.

Prior to the discussion, board member Jeff Waters had voiced his resistance to the early release Wednesdays concept.

“That (change) throws a wrench in what otherwise has been a normal cadence dating back to, jeez, forever,” Waters said during board comments.

Addressing concerns by about monitoring student-athletes who have after-school practice. Walsh said the district has more student safety officers and security personnel enlisted who to provide supervision, as they have done the past two years on flex-learning days.

“We can provide safe opportunities for students to hang around school, get a meal and, in some cases, practice (early) if their coach is not a District 86 teacher,” he said.

Board President Terri Walker asked Covino about peer districts’ practices. He responded that late starts are generally more common than early release.

The calendar also includes a later start date for the 2022-23 school year. To accommodate ongoing construction activity at both schools, classes will start Sept. 6 and end June 6. Covino said this is a one-time deviation from the norm.

“I don’t think anybody loves going late into June or starting after Labor Day,” he remarked, adding that semester exams would be held after winter break.

Looking ahead to the ensuing 2023-24 and 2024-25 calendars, Covino said they have been drafted with an eye toward returning to a more traditional schedule aligned with feeder schools and other districts in DuPage County.

“Our goal as a committee was to get back, by the end of this construction schedule, to the type of calendar that everyone has become used to,” Covino said.

The board members postponed a vote on the three-year calendar proposal to an April meeting so provide families with more time to review the recommendations and provide feedback.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean