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Sophomore presses Kaneland school board for later school day start time

Board also approves 2020-2021 academic calendar

Kaneland sophomore Kaite Luetgert asked the Kaneland Board of Education for a later start to the school day, citing information gathered from student surveys.
Kaneland sophomore Kaite Luetgert asked the Kaneland Board of Education for a later start to the school day, citing information gathered from student surveys.

SUGAR GROVE – Kaneland sophomore Kaite Luetgert shared at the Jan. 13 school board meeting some alarming research about the sleeping habits of Kaneland High School students and the benefits of starting the school day later.

During her 2019 survey of about 174 high school students, Luetgert concluded that just 10.3% of those surveyed are getting eight or more hours of sleep and 54.9% said they honestly feel tired every day.

She also discovered that 9 out of 10 students surveyed tend to feel more refreshed on late start days and weekends when they can wake up at a later time while 84% are involved in extracurricular activities after school, including 35% who do not return home regularly until 8 p.m. or later.

Luetgert asked the board to consider a change.

“With sufficiently less longitudinal research and evidence, let alone any medical reasoning, Kaneland is willing to try standards-based grading,” she said. “The district should be willing to change the bell schedule based on years of medical research related to sleep and start times. This research includes evidence involving the safety, well-being and success of students. The district’s final decision should be based on what will benefit the students. If Kaneland is willing to make our change, there are examples and options out there.”

For those who aren’t looking forward to school being out for summer, the good news is the beginning of the 2020-21 school year is just a little more than 200 days away. And for those not looking ahead to the next year, don’t worry – it’s still seven months away.

The board approved next year’s calendar for the forthcoming school year, which has Aug. 12 as the first day of school. Unless inclement weather results in snow days, the final day will be May 18, 2021.

“I have no reasonable objection other than I don’t like the fact that school starts on the 12th,” board member Ryan Kerry said. “When I was a kid, you always started after Labor Day. I don’t have a good logic.”

The opening and closing dates are consistent with Mid-Valley guidelines with member districts.

Those concerned that the early start date will hinder their ability to vacation may want to schedule their trips earlier in the summer rather than later.

“It’s more challenging for families to take vacation in August because if we started the 19th, then there’d be a couple weeks they would be able to do that,” said Dr. Todd Leden, superintendent of Kaneland. “What this does is it hopefully pushes back family vacation planning to earlier in June now, but there’s still the dead week before school starts.”

Students will have only two weeks in which they are in class just three of five days. One of those weeks is during the first week of school – Aug. 12-14. The other will be Nov. 2-6, which is the week of parent/teacher conferences.

“The trimesters, quarters and semesters are balanced similar to previous years,” Leden said. “This will be the second year in which the semester concludes prior to break.”

Leden also said that feedback from the high school was positive and that students support this schedule moving forward.

With the school year ending earlier, some of Kaneland’s athletic teams could find themselves still representing the Knights weeks after graduating. This year’s IHSA state softball and baseball finals are scheduled for June 12-13. The following year’s state finals should be around the same time.

“It could be a few weeks into the summer, and that’s why Iowa doesn’t do theirs until the summer,” Leden said. “But it’s a good problem to have, but it’s harder. There is a special feeling to be in school with your friends and high-fiving students and teachers so they can miss out on some of that.”

Students once again will enjoy having the entire week of Thanksgiving off from school. The district will continue to follow the Mid-Valley calendar guidelines for winter break and spring break.

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