Q&A — The Benefits of Late Start

Starting in the 2021-2022 school year, Sycamore Community School District 427 will be implementing a district-wide, 45 minute late start on Thursdays. This weekly late start will provide a common time for teachers across the district to work in Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s). We asked a few building administrators some frequently asked questions. Here’s what Sycamore Middle School (SMS) Principal Jim Cleven and Sycamore High School (SHS) Assistant Principal Mike Rice had to say.
 
What is the purpose of implementing late start Thursdays? And why now?
 
SHS has been following a late start schedule for nearly ten years. Given the success rate at SHS, SMS and the elementary schools will now follow suit.
 
The purpose of the late start is to give the District a common time for PLC’s — a time for teachers to collaborate on things like curriculum design, data analysis, and intervention planning. Creating dedicated time like this is an essential practice of districts with high-functioning PLC’s, a philosophy that is employed in the majority of schools in our area with great success.
 
How do students benefit from late start Thursdays and PLC’s?
 
Students benefit from this practice by having access to the collective knowledge of their teachers, which is accessed during PLC’s to create rigorous and meaningful lessons. In addition to curriculum design, staff spend time looking at student performance on assessments, which helps teachers ensure assessments are written to align with instruction and at a level that students can be successful. From these conversations, teachers are also able to identify students that may need additional support as well as students that are doing exceedingly well and may need a greater level of challenge.
 
Is there any concern that students might stay up later the night before, if school starts later the next day?
 
While we'd like to believe that students' lives revolve around school, we know they have a lot of other factors influencing their lives and schedules. Some students may decide to stay up later if they know they have an extra hour to sleep in the next morning; others may use that extra morning time to prepare for school, run an errand, socialize with friends, meet for an extracurricular, work out, or do other things that are important to them. What is important to us as educators is ensuring that the quality of students' education is as good as it can be, and the late start provides us with invaluable time to ensure we are offering students our best.
 
Will a later start time on Thursday disrupt after-school extracurricular activities?
 
Our Thursday late start will not extend the school day — school will end at the same time as the other days of the week — so it will not have much of an impact on students' ability to participate in extracurricular activities. In fact, as we’ve seen at the SHS, students sometimes use the time on Thursday mornings before school for club meetings or other tasks that tie in to their extracurricular activities.

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