Times Are Changing For Unit 5 Schools | WGLT

Times Are Changing For Unit 5 Schools

The Unit 5 board debates school start times.
Credit Mike Miletich / WGLT

The McLean County Unit 5 Board of Education has approved changes to start and end times for the 2016-17 school year.

This change from a three-tier to a two-tier system means elementary students will be starting the school day at 7:45. High schools will start at 8:30 and middle schools start latest at 8:45.

Unit 5 school families have until August to figure out their own schedules before the new start and dismissal times begin. Unit 5 board president Meta Mickens-Baker says they wanted to hear all views before making a final decision.

“We wanted to do it before spring break to give as much time as possible for families to plan in whatever direction things might move.” said Mickens-Baker.

The board placed a large emphasis on public comment by receiving and replying to numerous emails. Twenty-six public commentators alone spoke during the meeting Wednesday night. The new two-tier system won’t fix the budget deficit problem completely, however it will greatly reduce it. Unit 5 President Meta Mickens-Baker says the board will continue to look at ways to achieve a  stable financial situation.

“This whole discussion has led to not just the change in start times, but what other efficiencies because this addresses a part of the budget, and then we will still need to look at what are other ways to reduce our costs from year to year.” said Mickens-Baker.

The District hopes to save $1.5 million by eliminating buses, changing routes, and moving the start times. Mickens-Baker recognizes this decision will not please everyone. Rather the intention of the board is to choose the best option for Unit 5 students and their educational experience.

“I consider every student in the district my child,” says board member Gail Ann Briggs. “This is the most difficult decision that has come to me in the forty years I’ve been on the board.”

After voting on start times, the board announced Vice President Denise Schuster’s last day will be Thursday. Schuster will leave the board and move to Dallas, Texas with her family. Denise was elected to the board in 2014 and became Vice President in 2015 while also serving on the McLean County Regional planning committee.

An informational meeting for the vacancy will be held at the district office on April 4 at 5 p.m. The board is expected to appoint a new member by mid-April.