Op-Ed: Our Schools Deserve a Thousand Thanks

The schools are open! New Canaan is now a major step closer to normal, COVID-19 be damned. 

In a few weeks, barring a significant increase in community transmission, all 4,100-plus students will be able to attend school in-person, five days a week. If there is an increase, the schools have effective plans for that, too. This “no matter what” capability has required an unprecedented effort by all school leaders, by teachers and all other staff members, by the Board of Education, by other government officials, by parent-volunteers, and by many others. A thousand thanks are in order. 

When asked about this fall’s reopening—temporarily in “hybrid” mode—parents’ eyes light up and their praise is effusive.

Op-Ed: School Start Times—a Decision We Didn’t Want To Make

Thursday’s Town Council vote on the school budget will determine whether school start times will change next year to improve student health. It’s a decision we never wanted to make. 

It was thought the controversy might be resolved before the Town Council got involved. 

Just maybe, we thought, the Board of Education would back down after being confronted by opponents and after learning how disruptive the change would be. But student health was the BOE’s first priority and they forged ahead. 

Just maybe, a group of dissenting elementary school parents would sour people on the proposal, as their schedules could be the most severely affected. But they endorsed an 8:00 am start time for elementary schools compared to 7:50 am in the BOE proposal—a mere 10-minute difference. Only a handful of dissidents spoke against the BOE budget at Tuesday night’s public hearing compared to 43 who spoke in favor.

Op-Ed: Budgets Should Reflect What People Want

The results of the 2020 Community Survey should cause officials to reconsider the town’s budget priorities. Many thought they had a mandate to cut the mill rate by reducing the growth in school spending, but now we know otherwise. 

The survey shows that the quality of New Canaan’s Public Schools is unambiguously our top priority, while concerns about local tax rates are barely a factor. 

The survey confirms that school quality is the primary reason why we move here and why we stay here. It’s the primary reason why 73% of us think New Canaan is a good value for the taxes we pay. Only 14% of us think we should spend less on our schools, while 27% think we should spend more. 

Only 14% of us mentioned property taxes when asked for one thing we would change about New Canaan. Only 17% mentioned lower taxes when asked how the town could attract new residents.