Delavan-Darien students may have longer school days next year

DELAVAN — In an effort to boost academic achievement, students in the Delavan-Darien School District may spend more time in the classroom starting next school year.

The school board is considering extending the high school day by 15 minutes, the middle school day by 14 minutes, and the elementary school day by 30 minutes.

Over the course of a 180-day school schedule, that amounts to 45 more hours of instruction for high school students, 42 more hours for middle school students, and 90 more hours for elementary students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The proposed new bus drop-off, and school start and end times for the three schooling levels are as follows:

  • Delavan-Darien High School, 7:10 a.m. drop-off, 7:30 a.m. school start, 2:55 p.m. school end;
  • Phoenix Middle School, 7:15 a.m. drop-off, 7:30 a.m. school start, 3 p.m. school end;
  • All Elementary Schools, 8 a.m. drop-off, 8:20 a.m. school start, 3:50 p.m. school end.
Robert Crist, Ed.D.

Superintendent Robert Crist, Ed.D.

“Extra instructional minutes means extra time for learning for our students,” Superintendent Robert Crist said. “As you can see, these small changes added up over our school year can make a huge difference. We want all our students to achieve to their maximum potential and these added minutes will help us achieve that goal.”

As far as affecting academics go, Crist said the proposed new time schedule is better than what the district has currently, but it could be better. Students currently attend from 7:20 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Delavan-Darien High School, 7:20 a.m. to 2:36 p.m. at Phoenix Middle School, and from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the district’s three elementary schools.

“Ideally, I’d like to see adolescent middle and high school students starting later in the mornings, with elementary students starting about when they do now,” Crist said, noting the new schedule does offer a slightly later start time for all students. “Studies have shown that adolescent students perform best when their brains receive enough sleep and sufficient time to ‘wake up’ before the school day. Also, starting later would improve the safety of our students who must to leave for school or wait for the bus in the dark.”

However, because of the district’s large square-mileage area and busing costs, options are limited.

There are two bussing “runs” that pick up and drop off students daily. The first run is for middle and high school students. The second run, by those same busses, is for elementary students through fifth grade. The busses need a 45-minute difference in drop-off and pick-up times for the routes so all students can get to school or be taken home on time.

“If we were to go on a single bus run, we’d need more busses on the road. That is not financially possible at this time,” Crist said. “Also, when we looked at changing our school grade level structures, we heard from parents who had concerns about having students of all ages on the same bus. I also don’t want to have students on the bus longer than 45 or 50 minutes, if possible. These factors limit our scheduling options, right now.”

Whether or not the board approves the proposal at its May 28 meeting, administration and staff members will continue to work together over summer to develop the daily bell schedule for each school and grade (how long classes or subjects are taught). Crist said he also plans to continue searching for cost-effective ways to change the schedule and maximize the academic potential of the district’s students.

“We’ll continue to look at all options that are available to us, including adding a second bus company to the mix, or finding ways to safely have a mix of all grade levels on the same busses,” Crist said. “Our No. 1 priority is to make sure our students achieve academic success in our schools. If we can find ways to help do that with further changes to our school schedules, we should consider it.”

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