Board opposed to 15 early release days

District 86 administrators asked to come back with plan that increases instructional time


Last updated 5/4/2022 at 4:24pm | View PDF

Fifteen early release Wednesdays for the 2022-23 school year would be too many, according to Hinsdale High School District 86 Board members, who asked instead to see a plan with no more than 12.

Administrators came to the board in March with a plan to have students released early almost every Wednesday, which was not well-received, and then cut that number to 15. The days would be used instead of late start days and some flex days to give teachers time to collaborate — especially across the district, said Chris Covino, assistant superintendent of academics.

Prior to the presentation, board member Jeff Waters expressed his opposition to the proposal and said he received “excessive” emails from residents who are against it. Many cited the loss of instructional time, especially following two years of a pandemic.

“I have yet to receive an email in support of it,” Waters said.

Covino said administrators don’t disagree with many of the community members’ concerns.

“What we plan here ... addresses so many of those issues because we are on the same page,” he said. “We believe in more instructional time. We believe in more supports for students who are struggling. Those two things are unquestioned and are part of this process.”

With 15 early release days, students would receive 1,003 hours of instructional time (up from 998 this year) and teachers would have 23 hours of collaborative time. Academic and social-emotional support services would be available for students between the 12:35 p.m. dismissal and the start of after-school sports or activities.

Waters said he would like to see students have 1,024 hours of instructional time, as they did prior to the pandemic. Since work on curriculum alignment began before the 2019-20 school year, instructional time has been 995 to 1,005 hours.

Hinsdale Central Principal Bill Walsh said administrators agree more instructional time is needed and are moving in that direction. But they have to work within the schedule dictated by construction projects. Classes for the 2022-23 school year can’t begin until Sept. 6.

Instructional time will increase again after next year, Covino said.

“Next year will be a move in that direction, not an end point,” he said.

The district would lose an estimated $45,000 in revenue from food sales during lunch on early release days. Students would have the option of buying grab-and-go items like sandwiches and yogurt, which would be available to students on the free lunch program.

“Food will be available for all students,” Walsh said.

Another challenge would be getting students who go home at 12:35 p.m. back to campus for afternoon and evening athletics and activities.

Several board members said coming out of a pandemic is a time to focus on instruction.

“Why not pause or slow the strategic plan for a year as a way to allow our students to get more classroom time, more instructional time and more time with their teachers, which is very valued?” Peggy James asked.

Covino said course teams must have time to meet.

“It’s not just about the strategic plan. That’s a big chunk of it. It’s about maintenance of their existing course,” he said, noting work on the strategic plan already has been pushed out two years.

A poll showed five board members would support a maximum of 12 early release days. That would increase instructional hours from 1,006 to 1,009 and reduce collaborative time from 23 to 18 hours.

Any change in collaborative time will have to be negotiated with the Hinsdale High School Teachers Association, whose contract calls for 30 hours of collaborative time each school year.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean


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