Students attending Lyons-Brookfield Elementary District 103 schools will be back in the classrooms more than a week earlier for the 2016-17 school year following action at the board of education meeting on Feb. 25.

The 4 to 2 vote followed a contentious discussion with board members Joanne Schaeffer and Sharon Anderson questioning whether parents will have sufficient time to adjust their schedules. 

Schaeffer went so far as to suggest implementation of the calendar be delayed until the 2017-18 school year. In the end, however, Michael Bennett, Jorge Torres, Katie Broderick and Coleen Shipbaugh voted in favor of the calendar, while Schaeffer and Anderson voted against it. Mark Camasta did not attend the meeting.

Bennett, Torres, Broderick and Shipbaugh have formed a voting block since being elected in April with the support of Lyons Village President Christopher Getty. Although the board generally agrees on mundane matters, decisions on controversial issues are generally split with the Getty-backed quartet in the majority. 

In introducing the 2016-17 calendar, Interim Superintendent Kyle Hastings said it was designed to better mirror that of the Morton High School District 201, since the majority of the district feeds into the Morton district. 

Hastings said previous district calendars have not always mirrored those of the high school district. Hastings contended that parents with children in both districts benefit, because all their children will be following the same calendar. 

The earlier start also will result in an earlier end to the school year. Whereas the last day of school will be June 2 this year, the last day next year will be May 24.

In addition to the earlier start of the school year, District 103 will start classes later in the day nine times during the 2016-17 school year to allow teachers to engage in what known as “professional learning communities.” 

Instead of the usual 8:30 a.m. start on those days, students in kindergarten through fifth grade will start at 10 a.m. and students in sixth through eighth grade will start at 9 a.m. 

Hastings said the professional learning communities concept was created and popularized at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. Under the concept, teachers will gather approximately once a month to discuss students’ academic progress or lack thereof. Those students who are not progressing well will be identified and interventions will be designed to target their deficiencies. 

“The [professional learning communities] will allow more collaboration among teachers,” Hastings said. “This will benefit the students.”

Schaeffer acknowledged that District 103 has tried to mirror the Morton calendar for years but stressed her concern that parents will not have sufficient time to adjust their personal calendars. 

She cited specifically families who have already planned vacations for August with parents already requesting time off from their employers, asking if they will be able to change their plans.

“I don’t have a problem with starting earlier in August,” she said. “But we shouldn’t do it this year. Parents don’t have enough time to plan.”

Schaeffer does have a problem with the nine late starts to allow for the professional learning communities meetings, saying, “I don’t think a late start is necessary.”

Noting that the kindergarten through fifth-grade schools will start at 10 a.m. on those days, she asked, “What do you do with the little kids?”  

She contended that parents with children in kindergarten through fifth grade and children in sixth through eighth grade will have difficulty dealing with the different start times. 

Schaeffer also speculated that families with two working parents and children in kindergarten through fifth grade will be faced with the decision of which parent will be late for work.