District 203 has been examining the school day and school year for many months, coming to the conclusion that a later start time for high school could benefit students’ health and learning.
At a public forum hosted by the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation, all seven candidates vying for a spot on the 203 Board of Education shared their opinions on moving the start time for high school later in the morning, considering it may require additional buses and a change in logistics.
Former City Councilman Bob Fieseler, who is one of two individuals running for a single two-year term, is not yet decided, but leaning toward support.
“Teenagers work better when they’re allowed to sleep more and that younger kids in the lower grades are able to sleep later, get up and function,” said Fieseler.
The other candidate for the two-year term, newcomer Kristine Gericke, is in support, but concerned about busing.
“We should be willing to look at a combination of changes to achieve a later start time for our older students, without creating a great deal of upheaval within the entire district,” said Gericke.
Of the five candidates vying for four available four-year terms, challenger Paul Leong is the only one not in support.
“Not in favor of starting the school day later, largely due to the associated increased costs. If you are able to start the school day later, I would look to be more creative on how we might be able to cover those costs,” said Leong.
Incumbent Charles Cush is also concerned about the funding, but is in support of a later high school start time.
“I think it’s very critical for us to look at how we manage how we’re going to fund that. I think given the research on the topic, there’s no question that there are significant health benefits to the students,” said Cush.
The research is also what led newcomer Shirley DeCorte to support the change.
“Based on the research that is available that the benefits to our students would be greatly appreciated and help them do their best in school,” said DeCorte.
Incumbent Donna Wandke is also in favor of the change based on the health benefits of more sleep.
“However, everything’s a balance and the logistics behind this shift have to be considered and all the data have to be weighed so we make the best decision for our students learning,” said Wandke.
And the final incumbent, Kristin Fitzgerald, likes the potential benefits to students health that the change would bring, but is not ready to commit.
“I believe this is a complex proposal and I appreciate our district’s thorough consideration of national best practice and options for implementation, I’ll wait to hear specific details of a specific proposal before determining my support,” said Fitzgerald.
All seven candidates will appear on the April 4 ballot.
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.
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