OPRF's 2014 school year moves to mid-August start


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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected from the print edition. 

Oak Park and River Forest High School will start the next school year earlier than ever this August, but some District 200 school board members have expressed concern.

The 2014-15 school year officially begins on Friday, Aug. 14, with faculty returning that day. Students return the following week, with freshmen only on Monday, Aug. 18, and the rest of the student body on Tuesday, Aug. 19. Typically, OPRF starts its fall semester closer to Aug. 22. 

The year will wrap up on May 28, 2015. The last day of school normally occurs around the first week of June.

The earlier start is primarily the result of moving students' fall final exams before the winter break, said Phil Prale, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. The high school had previously moved fall finals up two years ago. Parents and students generally supported the move, and that switch also resulted in starting the school year earlier than usual, Prale said.

"When you move final exams up, there are challenges with the calendar and other competing interests. We felt that having finals before the break is more advantageous for us," Prale said.

The D200 school board, which governs OPRF, approved the 2014-2015 school calendar last month. 

 But some members were concerned about starting school so early in August.

Board member Sharon Patchak-Layman said the earlier start would negatively impact families' schedules coming off summer break. She also wondered what impact the new schedule will have on districts 97 and 90, which usually start their school year later.

Prale said the high school consults with those districts about lining up holidays and spring break but not the fall start dates.  

Board member Jackie Moore expressed concern about having OPRF students in school so early in the month of August when temperatures are extremely hot. 

Moore said she's heard of students having to move to cooler parts in the building during August and September. Prale said he had not heard of those specific instances. The school, though, has worked to cool certain parts of the building through HVAC upgrades, Prale added.

D200 board member Steven Gevinson expressed concern about the unevenness in the fall and spring semesters. He urged the school to do a better job evening out days between the two semesters. 

Prale said faculty was consulted and supported moving fall final exams up. All of the concerns expressed by the board, he added, will be taken into account when planning future calendars. Some board members also urged the administration to do a better job of communicating the earlier start to the community. D200 board Vice President Jeff Weissglass noted that these changes to the calendar could catch some parents off guard. 

Prale said the school will solicit more feedback from parents and the community. That opportunity will come with the 2015-2016 school calendar. The '15-'16 calendar was also discussed by the board last month and accepted as a draft but not formally approved. 

Reader Comments

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OP Transplant  

Posted: January 10th, 2014 1:11 PM

The greater value of year-round school is that the shorter breaks cause less disruption in teaching, eliminating the need to reteach and resocialize kids at the beginning of every school year. Three months off in the summer really doesn't make sense any more. Comparing developed nations, US students fare poorly against students from many other countries, and go to school fewer days.

Agree w/Concerned  

Posted: January 10th, 2014 12:56 PM

I'm not opposed to year-round school, in general, but there would have to be a very, very wide latitude for parents to take their kids out of school...summer camps, jobs, non-break family vacations when people can't match parent work schedules to school schedules. It's complicated. Year-round school would end up with students constantly at different places as they come and go. I don't think you understand how busy today's kids are, Lynette. You have a very biased opinion about them.


Posted: January 10th, 2014 12:40 PM

I am just sick of parents coddling their kids. These kids have more days off then ever. Too hot, too cold, teachers have meetings,etc. No wonder kids are not ready when they get to college or out into the real world. Let them learn instead of sitting on their butts playing video games. Let them go year round and have 2 week breaks -that is more than enough time to let them "be kids". They don't NEED 3 months off.

Violet Aura from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 1:16 PM

Lynette, are you a drill sargeant? What is with this mentality of working kids to the bone? Life is education. Stop seeing a demarcation.

Agree w/Concerned  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 12:41 PM

I'm in favor of keeping the school year between Labor Day and Memorial Day, give or take. There are things more important than classroom time and Concerned hits the nail on the head.

Concerned Oak Park Parent  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 12:25 PM

Lynette: family time is quite important to us. So much education can happen at home. It should not just be up to schools to educate our kids, but parents that care should come first. The problem is we put too much faith in our schools and not parents. There are so many cool opps for kids that can be done outside of the school day and places to see. Once school starts, life is so rushed and family time is quite limited. Kids should have the chance to be kids.

lynette from OakPArk  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 11:53 AM

Wow people, since when is a vacation more important than your kid's education? They should not even be getting 3 months off because they do not need it. It's costly to some parents who work and have to pay for day care or day camp. Plus the original reason kids even get 3 months is because back in the day, that is when they helped the family with the farm. Now all they do is sit and play video games.School should be all year round with 2 week breaks every few months.

Concerned Oak Parker  

Posted: January 8th, 2014 11:34 PM

This will impact the ability of the park district to find life guards for our pools and the ability of families to have August vacations. I do not understand why all schools can not just start until after Labor Day as they do on the east coast.

steve goldberg from oak park  

Posted: January 8th, 2014 10:57 PM

I share BOE member Steve Gevinson's concern about uneven semesters. I am forced to cut entire units from my first semester electives at students' expense. Many teachers are upset about the calendar's damaging effects. We were not consulted and have repeatedly stated our objections. Either OPRF should balance the semesters by starting the year earlier or revert to the old calendar with finals after winter break. The current calendar is educationally unsound. .

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