Because he must pay attention to people in the district who are opposed no matter what, the superintendent of schools isn’t in a good position to lead an internal working group looking into starting school later in the morning, according to members of a parents’ group that wants the change.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi is expected some time in June to share the administrative group’s thoughts on starting school later in the morning, but he should be arriving at a recommendation with input from the wider community, lifelong resident and New Canaan Public Schools parent David Rucci told members of the Board of Education at their most recent regular meeting.
“It is very difficult, [according to] all the research that we have done, for the superintendent to be in charge of this,” Rucci said at the meeting, held May 21 in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.
“He is going to get a lot of internal pressure from other places and we understand that that is a problem for him. And it’s not easy for him to sort of negotiate through that. Generally that internal opposition is going to come from athletic departments, transportation personnel, teachers—people who do not want to change And it’s hard. It’s hard on the superintendent.”
Rucci spoke during the public comments part of the school board’s meeting.
He’s one of an estimated 500-plus parents who belong to Healthy School Start Times New Canaan and “would like to petition” for an across-the-board change to 8:30 a.m. start times for grades seven through 12, Rucci said.
New Canaan High School currently runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2:05 p.m. Seventh- and eighth-graders at Saxe Middle School operate on the same schedule, while fifth- and sixth-graders’ days run from 8:20 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. At South School, the day runs from 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., while the other two elementary schools run from 9:05 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.
Luizzi has said in the past that the district is looking at the knock-on effect that changing the schedule would have in areas that include New Canaan’s tiered bus schedules, homework and after-school athletics. Because it’s so pervasive, the change could not be made for next academic year in any case, he has said.
A Center School, Saxe and NCHS alumnus who works in New Canaan, Rucci said that has “was moved by the effect the early start times have had for my older daughters, and now my son will enter 7th.”
“So I have a long history with this particular district and I feel pretty strongly about this particular issue,” he said. “We talked to Dr. Luizzi back in 2016, he was very receptive to the idea. He helped us a lot, as far as how he was going to move forward with the looking at this particular issue. We had hoped initially that we would sort be a part of that, but we and I understand, really, how this particular group is going to work in terms of committees and being careful with bringing different things up to the public at different times. I respect that, I understand it. It makes sense to me. We though as a group have continued to gather data. We set up a website, we set up a newsletter.”
The group has cited the findings of public health studies—as well as local pediatricians—on sleep deprivation as a major reason for pushing back school start times. Noting that they initially were to be part of the working group that’s studying later school start times, parents last month called for the Board of Ed to open up its study of the matter to the public.
During the same meeting, the Board of Ed heard a report on various cost-cutting strategies recently put in place for the school district.