WEST RIDGE — Chicago Public Schools announced Monday that after a wave of criticism from parents and principals about changing start times at 82 schools, at least 34 of those schools would see times reverted back to normal — including three schools in West Ridge and one in Rogers Park.
“After listening to educators, students and families express their concerns about changing bell times, the Board of Education felt it was incredibly important to work with principals to determine the best options for their school communities,” Board of Education President Frank Clark said in a statement. “By engaging principals and learning about the many unintended consequences the changing bell times caused, we decided to rescind those changes that had a negative impact on schools."
Area schools affected include:
- Mather High School: Mather administrators had warned families to "plan ahead" for the upcoming school year when CPS changed its time from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. It will now return to its original day schedule of 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
- Jamieson Elementary School: The new start time for Jamieson will begin at 8:45 a.m. and the school day will now end at 3:45 p.m., not far off from the school's 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. bell schedule it used for the previous school year. When CPS announced changes earlier this summer, it slotted Jamieson for 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.
- Stone Scholastic Academy: Stone put up a fight after CPS changed its time from 8 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., but officials at the school say they're "enthusiastic" about the district's reversal back to 8 a.m.
- Sullivan High School: Scheduled for a 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. school day, Sullivan is back to its 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. bell times.
Tom McClurg, vice chairman of Stone Scholastic's Local School Council, said the reversal was met with "great enthusiasm and relief" from parents who expressed safety worries about their children waiting for the bus too early in the morning, as well as placing a negative impact on the kids' learning.
"I quite am impressed that CPS officials, especially those which talked with Stone's principal, assistant principal and members of Stone's LSC, were receptive and ultimately responsive to our expressions of parents' concerns about a possible new 7:30 daily start time," McClurg told DNAinfo. "Most important, the kids can get the sleep they need each school day."
Chris Jones, principal at Mather High School, confirmed his school had gone back to an 8 a.m. start, which had been changed by CPS to begin at 9 a.m. for the upcoming school year.
In an email to DNAinfo, Jones said there had been "no outcry" from parents or staff, so he was unsure why the time was being reversed.
However, he said there were "still questions" when it came to area sports because not all students would be released at the same time.
Sheryl Lindenbaun, vice chairperson of Mather's LSC, said the parents she'd spoken to "weren't happy" about CPS' plans to start students at 9 a.m., "due to traveling home in the dark when their children were involved in after school activities," she said.
Lindenbaun also said she wasn't convinced by the district's argument for school start time changes "under the guise of reducing travel delays" because parents and community members, including district officials, "know full well a 9 a.m. start time is right in the thick of rush hour."
Susan Paik, assistant principal at Jamieson Elementary School, said she was pleased with the "good" news that the school would be going back to near its original time of 8:30 a.m., with an 8:45 a.m. start time. CPS had briefly changed its first bell to 7:30 a.m.
Decatur Elementary School was the only Far North Side school affected by the CPS change that did not have its time reverted back to 8:15 a.m. It is still scheduled to start at 7:45 a.m. come the first day of school Sept. 8.
The changes were credited to CPS' plan to reduce the number of bus routes throughout the city, an additional aggravating factor among many parents and complicating after school programs such as sports, child care and extracurricular activities.
On July 1, Chicago Public Schools 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, CPS spokeswoman Emily 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.
CPS has wavered when it comes to how much the move was expected to save the district, waffling between $13.5 and $9 million, but now saying the time reversals will only yield about $5 million in savings.
“Every dollar we save by staggering school bell times and streamlining transportation services next school year is one more dollar we don’t have to cut from our classrooms,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement. “Despite the need for savings, we are recognizing the calls from students, parents and educators to place a greater emphasis on scheduling after school activities and reducing inconveniences. We appreciate the 82 principals who worked with us to minimize disruptions and protect in-school time, and we are grateful to the 48 among those who helped us find savings that will benefit all schools.”
Emails and messages left with Sullivan High School have not been returned.
Check out the latest bell times here, with changes announced Monday highlighted in green:
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