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Education

Sycamore School District 427's calendar for 2019-20 still awaiting vote

Sycamore School District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman talks with a member of the audience during the District 427 board meeting Tuesday at Sycamore Middle School.
Sycamore School District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman talks with a member of the audience during the District 427 board meeting Tuesday at Sycamore Middle School.

SYCAMORE – More discussion still has to take place in order to define an instructional day in Sycamore School District 427 and solidifying the district’s calendar for the next school year.

The District 427 Board had the first reading of the proposed district calendar for the 2019-20 school year during its meeting Tuesday night at Sycamore Middle School. The discussion – which did not result in a vote during the meeting – came after the district received an Illinois State Board of Education memo, which said the state will end a requirement that students must be in their seats, in their classrooms, at least five hours a day.

District 427 Superintendent Kathy Countryman said there are no significant changes to when the school year is starting and ending from what traditionally has been the case. She said the new ISBE regulations that leave some definitions up to individual school districts give a lot of good opportunities to implement things at a district level, which could include flexible scheduling for the high school on top of the school already implementing zero hour.

“We always ask our legislatures that we would really like more local control,” Countryman said.

Unlike what DeKalb School District 428 is considering, Countryman said District 427 is not looking at including remote student engagement or e-learning days. She said district officials don’t want to hop on the band wagon too early without taking the time to look at what that would mean for students, teachers and the administration.

Countryman said officials are looking more at how beneficial it is to keep scheduling final exams before winter break at the high school level. She said they also have to think about how many continuous days off there are during the school year and how that might affect overall learning for students coupled with considering family and community needs – such as family time together, parents that still have to work during those days off and even having scheduled days off for the Sycamore Pumpkin Fest, for example.

“So many of our community members are involved in planning for that event or working at that event, our facilities are used by our community for that event,” Countryman said.

Board member Eric Jones said he’s heard more concerns from the community about how longer breaks might inhibit student learning.

“I know that, just from dealing with my own kids, that when they’re off of school for four, five or six days in a row, including the weekends, it’s hard to get them dialed back into the rhythm of, ‘OK, you’ve got homework to do when you get home and you’ve got to get up at a set time to get ready for school in the morning,’” Jones said.

Going forward, Countryman said, the goal is to create more of a committee structure for the next school year to look at the district calendar and to create a solid definition for an instructional day within the district.

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