NORMAL — Late start days may soon be a thing of the past for McLean County Unit 5 schools.
Assistant Superintendent Michelle Lamboley presented a proposal to the school board Wednesday night that would replace 12 late start days with seven half days for student attendance on the calendar for the 2022-23 school year.
“We know that right now our staff are not getting the full benefit of our current time with the late starts, as they are going to pick up students from the bus in the morning, preparing for their students about to arrive. They’re just not really getting what the time is intended for, the full amount of time,” she said of the professional learning communities time, or PLC, that the one-hour late starts were designed for.
Unit 5 staff was surveyed in November, and of the respondents, 73% said a half day school improvement model would be more beneficial than the late start system that has been in place since 2010.
Using half days that land on different weekdays throughout the school year, elementary students would be released at 10:45 a.m., junior high students released at 11:45 a.m. and high school students released at 11:30 a.m.
Junior high and high school students would still meet for each class, but within shortened class periods.
The latter half of the school day would be divided, giving 90 minutes for PLC and 90 minutes for school improvement activities.
District administration is working on other areas that could be affected by this change, including lunch service, childcare considerations, athletics and other extracurricular activities.
Board President Amy Roser said late start days have consistently been a source of difficulty for many parents, so she expected this proposed change to be well-received.
The calendar committee also proposed moving the parent-teacher conference day from October to November, which would land on the Monday before Election Day, another non-attendance day. The board holiday that typically is observed as a non-attendance day in April would become a half day for student attendance and half school improvement day.
The board is expected to vote on the proposed calendar at its next meeting, Feb. 9.
In other business, the board voted to approve a $1.4 million indoor air quality and energy efficiency proposal from Alpha Controls & Services under the Omnia Partners Cooperative Purchasing Agreement.
Executive Director of Operations Joe Adelman said this project will be funded by Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, as part of federal COVID relief funding.
The project will address upgrades at Normal Community and Normal West high schools and Parkside and Pepper Ridge elementary schools.
“This is going to give us an additional $275,000 in annual savings on gas and electric,” Adelman said, adding that once this project is finished the district will be spending about $1.8 million per year on energy, compared to about $3.5 million 15 years ago.
The district’s energy efficiency efforts have also resulted in 80% of the school buildings being Energy Star certified, he said.
“While energy costs are going up, ours are going down.”
Contact Kelsey Watznauer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @kwatznauer.