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CPS Changes School Start Times at 60 High Schools, 17 Grade Schools

By Stephanie Lulay | July 17, 2015 5:53am | Updated on July 17, 2015 3:17pm
 Andrew Jackson Language Academy on the Near West Side is among a number of schools that face schedule changes this chool year.
Andrew Jackson Language Academy on the Near West Side is among a number of schools that face schedule changes this chool year.
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NEAR WEST SIDE — In an effort to cut costs, bell schedules at more than 75 CPS schools are expected to change for the 2015-2016 school year — with some schools shifting schedules by as much as 45 minutes to an hour.

In total, 60 high schools and 17 elementary schools will be affected by the new bell schedules, Chicago Public Schools officials confirmed late Thursday. At the affected high schools, start time will shift to 9 a.m. and affected elementary schools, for the most part, will shift to an earlier start time of 7:30 or 7:45 a.m.

CPS would not release the full list of schools to the media Thursday, saying that principals instead would be spreading the news to parents at the affected schools. The announcement comes less than two months before the new school year is set to begin, and CPS officials did not detail how the new start times were being communicated to parents. CPS did not say why the start times were not determined before school let out for the summer.

"All affected principals have been informed, and we are working with them to communicate the information to parents," CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said. "We'll release the schools after that process."

Stephanie Lulay discusses the implications for parents of CPS kids:

So far, some CPS principals have announced the new start times in newsletters, on Facebook and Twitter.

On July 1, CPS officials announced bell times would shift at some schools as part of the $200 million in cuts the school district rolled out. Schools with changing bell times were given final notice of their schedules on Monday, Bittner said.

Shifting the start time at the 77 schools will save CPS $9.2 million by reducing the number of bus shifts to two, allowing the district to cut 160 buses and 75 aides, Bittner said.

"With a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the bell time shift provides significant savings instead of making cuts to the classroom," she said.

Which schools are affected?

Andrew Jackson Language Academy, a lottery admissions school on the Near West Side, is one of the schools that will be affected by the change. In a newsletter to parents this week, new Principal Marilou Rebolledo wrote that CPS would be adjusting the school bell schedule for the 2015-2016 school year in order to "streamline" bus operations.

"Due to financial challenges and conserving funds for classroom and students, CPS had to make adjustments to school bell times," Rebolledo wrote.

Andrew Jackson students will now attend from 7:45 a.m.-2:45 p.m. School previously started at 8:30 a.m.

Skinner North Classical Elementary School in Old Town will now start school at 7:45 a.m. The change is being made so the school can pair busing with Franklin Elementary Fine Arts Center in Old Town, that has a new start time of 7:30 a.m., according to a letter from Skinner North Principal Ethan Netterstrom.

"We have done our best to prevent this," Netterstrom wrote. "The transportation department is not willing to let us do a survey and not willing to show any flexibility. We have tried multiple avenues, and there is no ability to change."

Amundsen High School in Lincoln Square will also move its school hours to 9 a.m.-4:15 p.m., Principal Anna Pavichevich confirmed on Facebook Tuesday afternoon. Class previously started 8 a.m.

Principal D'Andre Weaver, who leads Brooks College Prep Academy in Pullman, confirmed the high school's later start time in a tweet Tuesday: "New start and end times: 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. No joke."

Principal D'Andre Weaver, who leads Brooks College Prep Academy in Roseland, confirmed the high school's later start time in a tweet Tuesday. [Twitter]

Brooks College Prep's Twitter account wrote: "If you have complaints meet with the CPS board of education. Mr. Weaver doesn't control the world students."

Taft High School in Norwood Park and Steinmetz College Prep in Belmont-Cragin will also now be starting at 9 a.m., too. 

While staff at Whitney Young Magnet High School said they have learned the bell schedule would likely be changing to 9 a.m., parent Tina Iturralde said Whitney Young parents had not been notified of the change. The school started at 8 a.m. previously.

Whitney Young Principal Joyce Kenner said she notifed the school's LSC but was waiting to notify parents until she was able to determine whether she could request a meeting with CPS leaders to discuss different options.

"We would like them to explore the possibility of having strategic staggered start times for different subsets of students," she said.

Parent reaction "mixed"

After the new bell schedule was announced this week, the Andrew Jackson Local School Council received a "mixed reaction" from Jackson parents, according to chairwoman Angela Bryant. The bell change came as a surprise, she said.

"[Because] the change is due to budgetary constraints, [that] softens the reaction," Bryant said.

But last year, CPS gave parents a completely different message: It said the district would save money if the school would move Jackson's start time later, to 8:45 a.m. or even 9 a.m. Jackson parents opposed that change when it was proposed by the CPS Transportation Department, and the Andrew Jackson's LSC decided to continue with the regular bell time of 8:30 a.m.

In the last six years, bell time has changed once at Jackson, shifting start time from 8:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., Bryant said.

Andrew Jackson Language Academy is at 1340 W. Harrison St. on the Near West Side. [DNAinfo]

As parents adjust to the new bell times, Bryant said the many of them will need the support of quality and affordable before- and after-school programming to make their families' schedules work. Jackson is working with a new after-school program vendor this year that may be able to meet parents' needs, she said.

Jackson parents plan to discuss the new bell schedule at a special LSC meeting Thursday.

If you know of a CPS school that is changing bell schedules not listed in this article, please email chicago-newsroom@dnainfo.com or tweet to @DNAinfoCHI.

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