Schools dealing with early switch

Schools dealing with early switch

TUSCOLA – Joe Burgess got up early Monday morning to scan the skies to see how light it will be when his students come to school next Monday.

Monday will be the first school day after the weekend clocks spring forward an hour – about a month ahead of the customary schedule, thanks to federal legislation.

Burgess was glad to see it's lighter outside now at 6 a.m. than it was in December at 7 a.m., about the time students in rural areas start getting ready to board school buses. He said school officials and parents want their youngsters to board buses in daylight, not the dark.

"I looked at the situation this morning," said Burgess, superintendent of Tuscola schools. "The sun was coming up. There was plenty of daylight."

Of more concern, say area superintendents, is the fact that students will be losing an hour of sleep the weekend before they start taking the all-important Illinois Standards Achievement Tests, examinations that determine schools' standing in the high-stakes No Child Left Behind requirements.

"We're not testing Monday to give the kids an extra day to get that hour of sleep lost," said Vic White at Prairieview. "We want to give them every advantage on the ISATs."

"The state in its infinite wisdom scheduled the ISATs right at the beginning of the time change," said Andy Larson at Heritage. "We're going to wait a day. The fact that we have to test kids when they're readjusting to a time change is frustrating."

Burgess said his Tuscola students will be reviewing and "doing something small" on the tests Monday.

"When you think about it, it's like jet lag and you might get it on Tuesday or Wednesday so our staff is going to look at it and monitor it," he said.

Champaign and Urbana schools are taking ISAT tests this week.

Cliff McClure at Paxton-Buckley-Loda said he'll watch for safety issues for the students in his spread-out district.

"This is out of my control, it's a legislative activity, and we'll react to it," McClure said. "If issues arise, we'll react."

He said some students who travel to special programs at Rantoul or Champaign do board buses very early, possibly before the sun is up in March.

"Mostly that's door to door transportation," McClure said. "In any case, if we're picking up students under regular circumstances, we'll make sure it's in well-lighted places. We're here to make travel to and from school as safe as possible."

White said he welcomes the extra daylight at the end of the school day, and he thinks it's good for his students.

"At night when they go home, they can do something outside before they come in and do homework," he said.

Steve Poznic at Villa Grove said his district is small, his staff is experienced, and everyone will deal with the change. Poznic said he's not altering any plans because of it.

But he said he'd seen reports that some computers might "have a problem" with the earlier time change.

"I guess," he said, "we'll find out Monday."

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