DOWNTOWN — Three of Downtown's most prominent schools are set to have later school days next year, a change that's already raising objections from parents and principals.
Classes will start an hour later next year at Jones College Prep, 700 S. State St.; Walter Payton College Prep, 1034 N. Wells St.; and Ogden International School's West Campus, 1250 W. Erie St. Classes at the three schools next year will begin at 9 a.m., from 8 a.m., with school days ending at 4:15 p.m. for Jones and Ogden West and 4:30 p.m. at Payton.
The change, which was told to parents less than two months before classes resume Sept. 8, is meant to cut transportation costs across the city as Chicago Public Schools looks for new ways to dig out of a $1.1 billion budget hole.
But parents and the principals of Jones, Ogden and Payton have already spoken out against the later start and end times, saying the change would disrupt students' lives and force families to alter their schedules on short notice.
Stephanie Lulay discusses the implications for parents of CPS kids:
"You’re asking hundreds of families to rearrange their personal schedules [so CPS can] find some money, when it’s our leaders' responsibility," Ogden Principal Michael Beyer said. "They're literally pinching pennies."
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said changed times will save the school district $9.2 million by reducing the number of bus shifts and allowing the district to cut 160 buses and 75 bus aides. More than 75 schools will be affected, but CPS has yet to disclose which ones.
"With a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the bell time shift provides significant savings instead of making cuts to the classroom," Bittner said.
Some impacted principals have since used newsletters, social media and school websites to notify parents of the change. Payton Principal Tim Devine, who did not return a message seeking comment, on Sunday told parents the changes will "disproportionately impact" students who rely on public transportation to get to the Near North Side school, and may deter their extracurriculars and social lives. Because the change isn't uniform across CPS — or taking effect at suburban or private schools — many interscholastic matchups could also be muddied.
"We are a citywide school. As such, many of our students have a one to 1½ hour one-way commute," Devine wrote to parents. "There would be no real break for them from 9 a.m. until they complete their homework in the late evening hours. This would impact relationships with family and friends, as their time after school would be spent on commuting and studying, or students will cease their involvement in extracurriculars."
The change is driven by a change in bus schedules, but most Downtown CPS students don't take a school bus to get to school, the principals said. Later start times also will force students across the city to get Downtown during the thick of rush hour, and wait to get home till after dark, worrying parents.
"Five buses serving 50 children is making a determination for 1,620 additional kids" at Jones, Principal P. Joseph Powers said. "There's gotta be some way around this."
Clintina Taylor of Humboldt Park said her teenage daughter commutes an hour each way to attend school at Jones. She has French and music lessons and participates in a poetry competition at Harold Washington College after school, and was "already up late anyway" doing homework, Taylor said. But now that school will start later, Taylor said she and her daughter are talking about cutting back.
"CPS will have to come up with a reason other than $9 million in bus savings," she said.
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