Over the past three years, New Trier has studied the structure of the school calendar with input from students, parents and staff. This study had several goals, including reducing student stress levels, providing more family and unscheduled time for students, and allowing our teachers and staff to engage in more collaborative professional development. We used the modified calendars required to complete the Winnetka Campus Construction Project as an opportunity to employ different calendar options, including starting the school year after Labor Day and having final exams before winter break. Each year, we conducted surveys about the impact of each calendar structure and considered those results in concert with focus groups, studies of best practices, and comparative data from other schools to establish a new proposed calendar for 2019-2020.
The proposed calendar keeps finals two weeks after winter break with a traditional late August start; includes a number of homework-free and exam-free days; and makes every Wednesday a late arrival day. This letter outlines the proposed changes and includes information about how you can share your feedback about the New Trier school calendar.
First Semester Exams Two Weeks After Winter Break
The proposed calendar places first semester final exams two weeks after winter break and accomplishes the key priorities identified by the study, including reducing stress related to the timing of final exams and providing several long weekends during the school year. Students will have a homework-free winter break and will have time for continued instruction and exam preparation when they return. It also allows the school to maintain a traditional late August start date, which our research showed was a priority for the community, as it allows for alignment with sender school calendars and provides enough time for a significant break for students in the summer.
Homework- and Exam-Free Days
The District is continually reviewing the role of homework to ensure that it is meaningful to student learning and reasonable in the amount of time it demands from students. New Trier has phased in homework-free breaks over the past several years, and the 2019-2020 calendar will explicitly name these days for students and parents. Parents will receive a color-coded calendar that includes all of our homework-free and assessment-free days, many of which are paired with religious holidays or existing days off to provide for more family time and to assure that our breaks are true breaks for students.
Wednesday Late Starts
The proposed calendar also adjusts the school start time every Wednesday to 9:10 a.m. at Northfield and 9:30 a.m. at Winnetka. Both campuses will continue to open at the normal time, and several supervised areas will be available for students to study or relax. The proposed schedule provides a consistent structure for teachers to participate in professional development and allows students to have a designated time each week for extra sleep or schoolwork.
Several Chicago-area high schools have regular late arrival or early dismissal days. At New Trier, the Wednesday late arrival would replace the current practice of Friday early dismissal and Monday late start days. On this web site is an FAQ that provides answers to questions you may have about this new structure, including questions about student transportation, Early Bird classes, and special education services as well as a more detailed explanation of the benefits of such a model.
This proposal represents the culmination of a process to study and improve the calendar that began several years ago, and we believe it provides the right balance of consistent professional development time for our staff and additional time for students to manage homework, sleep, and other aspects of their busy lives.