District 207 considers calendar change

After a survey a few years ago showed interest in moving first semester final exams in Maine Township High School District 207 to before winter break, nothing was done, but now another survey is asking the same question.

District spokesman Dave Beery said the administration wants to make sure students, parents and faculty members understand the trade-offs associated with the potential change.

"Any calendar change in terms of when the finals are would mean school would start about a week and a half earlier in August," Beery said. "The second trade-off is a school probably would be in session on Columbus Day and Veteran's Day. And another [trade-off] is that school would be in session on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week."

The survey, posted on the district website, asks students, parents and faculty to weigh in on the beginning date of the fall semester and final exams, while detailing the benefits and drawbacks of a potential change.

"Before we make that change, we want to be confident that there is a consensus within the district," Beery said. "That's why we are taking some time and haven't moved quickly on this before."

Barrington School District 220 and Niles Township High School District 219 have completed similar surveys and will make the change to first semester ending prior to winter break this fall. District 219 spokesman Jim Szczepaniak said the 2012 survey showed that 61 percent of students, parents, faculty and Board of Education members were in favor of the school calendar that starts in August and has final exams before winter break.

In District 207, Beery said the survey is just the initial step. To follow will be additional discussion if administrators see enough support for the idea. The earliest a change could be implemented would be 2016.

Bridget Connolly, assistant principal for student services at Niles North High School, cited the lengthy winter break as one of the main benefits of the new academic calendar.

"Previously we would have winter break and kids would have two weeks," Connolly said. "But most of the time they are cramming and stressing about the finals. To me, that's one of the biggest reasons for making a change."

Beery also cited the stress factor.

"There are some students who feel that it makes for a more relaxed winter break if they are not studying throughout the break for exams before they come back," Beery said. "Probably a more important reason is that there are standardized tests later -- ACT or Advanced Placement exams in the spring."

Beery said some 6,500 students who attend Maine West, Maine East and Maine South would be affected. He said the survey will be completed in a few weeks.

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