By Terry Dean
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.