About 75 parents and children packed the School Board’s June 9 meeting to oppose a plan to change school start times next year at Lincoln, Lincolnwood and Oakton schools from 8:20 or 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Nine parents spoke in opposition to the change, saying the 9:00 a.m. start time would make it difficult and expensive for many families to coordinate work schedules and childcare arrangements.

After the Board refused to postpone the change for another year, Pam Daniels, Lincoln School PTA Co-President, told the RoundTable that a coalition of parents would encourage parents at the three schools to withhold payment of student fees until their voice was heard. The rational is the withheld fees would partially offset the cost of before-school childcare.

The Change/Parents Concerns

Currently, seven of the District’s ten elementary schools start at 9:00 a.m. Under the administration’s plan to change the start times of Lincoln, Lincolnwood and Oakton to 9:00 a.m., all K-5 schools would start at 9:00 a.m., and end at 3:20 p.m.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said the changes would facilitate scheduling and providing professional development to all elementary grade teachers during early-release and half-day dismissals. He said the changes would also create greater efficiency in coordinating bus schedules and save the District approximately $100,000 a year in busing costs. Under the plan, magnet and middle school schedules will remain unchanged.

Rhonda Present, a District 65 parent and the founder of ParentsWork, said, “While consistency across the District seems in theory a good thing, the problem is that the later 9:00 – 3:20 schedule is difficult for many families when it comes to coordinating work and childcare arrangements. And, of at least equal concern is the fact that the change was made without the input of parents who are among the most important stakeholders in our school community.”

She said more than 200 parents had signed either a written or an on-line petition opposing the change in start times.

Lyna Smith, an Oakton parent and a working single mother, told Board members she would need to obtain before-school childcare for her three children in order to get to work on time. She said she could not afford before-school childcare, which she estimated would cost $450 per month. “This decision bankrupts my family,” she said. “It forces me to move out of Evanston.”

Michelle Kemp, an Oakton parent, said to make the change without consulting parents is “insensitive and unkind.” She said, “I’m already paying for childcare in the afternoon. To pay for childcare in the mornings would be overwhelming.”

Mahesh Mohnalkar, a Lincoln parent, said “There’s no office that starts at 9:30…With a 9:00 start time, it would be difficult for a parent to manage a job and childcare.” He suggested the District should consider starting all elementary schools at 8:20, rather than 9:00. He said, “If you ask the seven other schools, they would also prefer an 8:20 start time.”

While Board members said they empathized with parents’ concerns, they did not postpone or overturn Dr. Murphy’s decision to change start-times. Board member Andrew Pigozzi said most schools start at 9:00 a.m., and there are solutions to childcare. He added, “Our primary goal is the education of students. I have to trust this management decision.”

Jerome Summers said, I don’t like the way it was communicated, but I don’t think it was a bad decision.”

In response to questions by Bonnie Lockhart, Dr. Murphy said childcare would be available at the affected schools. Assistant superintendent Susan Schultz said the cost of before-school child care would be $35 per week per child, and subsidies would be available for qualified families.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...