school start times

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Parents Call for Board of Ed To Open ‘Formal and Public’ Study on Later School Start Times

Eight months after hearing that they would be part of a working group dedicated to the task, parents in plain language on Monday night called for the Board of Education to open a “formal and public study” to evaluate later school start times in New Canaan. Saying she represented more than 600 New Canaan Public Schools parents who have signed an online petition advocating for later start times, Megan Steele said the group respectfully requested “that the Board of Ed members put to vote the immediate formation of a ‘School Start Time Committee’ to be formally and publicly created, per the bylaws, so that we the public can have full knowledge of any meetings, process and progress, and additionally provide meaningful input into this outcome.”

“It is a very important decision and we know it is a complicated one,” she told members of the Board of Ed at their regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “We know we need to understand the costs, the logistics and possible solutions. But we believe we must put our teens’ health first and take a holistic, creative approach to making this work. As parents and registered voters, we are entitled to this from our Board of Ed and school administration. Continue Reading →

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Letter: Last Week’s School Start Times Survey Lacked Context

On April 19, New Canaan parents and students were asked by New Canaan Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Luizzi to take an unannounced School Start Times Survey. Many adults and children who attempted to respond to the survey found it to be confusing, especially the parents of Saxe students. Furthermore, the survey was conducted before the district made any effort to inform parents about the important impact that school start times have on student health. Thus, many parents and students felt that they did not have enough knowledge of the issue to answer the questions in an informed way. Thanks to the New Canaan League of Women Voters, there is a great opportunity next week for the community to learn more about why the district is evaluating school start times: because decades of research has shown that a 7:30 a.m. start is detrimental to student health; it is harmful to such a degree that every major medical organization in the country has recommended that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later. Parents, students and others in the community are invited to a panel discussion on adolescent sleep on May 3 at 7 p.m. in NCHS Wagner Room. Continue Reading →

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Message to Board of Ed: Local Pediatricians Support Later School Start Times

The medical professionals at a well-established pediatric practice in New Canaan support efforts to re-examine start times in the school district and have advocated for starting later in the morning, according to information presented Monday night to the Board of Education. The four doctors at New Canaan Pediatrics LLC told the school board said that communities with later start times “have shown increased academic performance, reported decreased mood disorders and experienced significantly reduced automobile accident rates in teens,” according to a letter that a local parent advocating for later start times read out at the group’s regular meeting. Evidence in support of later school start times “includes both the unique biologic needs of adolescents and the demonstrable health and safety benefits realized by communities that have later start times,” according to the letter, read by Karen Willett. “In our practice we clearly see a trend of teenagers from neighboring communities with later start times reporting more sleep than those from communities, like New Canaan, that have earlier start times. We understand that the practical hurdles to changing existing start times are significant but the compelling benefit to our children and the community in general makes the change to a later start time for middle school and high school students worth it. Continue Reading →

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VIDEO: New Canaan Kids on Starting School Later in the Morning

Starting school later in the morning would affect a wide swath of New Canaan, from teachers, administrators, coaches and bus drivers to parents, local business owners and organizations whose programming is built, in part, around the school day as it currently is set. Since the prospect of later start times first emerged at a public meeting last summer, New Canaan Public Schools administrators have studied the matter internally and, at the most recent Board of Ed meeting, parents who favor a chance made their voices heard. One key group that hasn’t yet weighed in are school-age kids. So, I asked NCHS graduate and videographer Nils Andersson to head downtown last Friday afternoon and ask them what they think. The video above captures some of their responses. —Michael Dinan Continue Reading →

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Parents Advocate for Later School Start Times Before Board of Ed

Citing multiple medical organizations that say sleep deprivation causes a slew of health problems in children and adolescents, parents on Monday night told district officials that they’re eager to weigh in on an open question, now facing New Canaan Public Schools, about whether to start later in the morning. Karen Willett, a parent of 11- and 6-year-old boys at Saxe Middle School and West School, told members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the CDC have all issued policy statements “about the negative impact of early start times on student mental and physical health.”

“We realize that the decision on start times cannot be made in a vacuum,” Willett said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School

“As in every other district that has successfully changed start times, there are cost complications and logistical issues to be resolved. However, as we go through the process of addressing the difficulties, let’s also stay focused on the reason we are addressing this topic in the first place. Because that extra hour of sleep every day will help improve the mental and physical health of thousands of our children. In one of his budget presentations, [Superintendent of Schools] Dr. [Bryan] Luizzi said he often gets questions during the budgeting cycle from the finance people—and I’m paraphrasing here—‘What expenses can be deferred?’ and ‘What can be done later?’ and his response in regard to the student-impacting expenses, if we know a program is needed, we owe it to the current cohort of children to implement as soon as possible, because they will not be able to benefit from it if we defer it. Continue Reading →

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