Six months after voting in favor of a new school start times schedule that would see elementary schools start at 8 a.m. while the high school starts at 8:30 a.m., the Board of Education last week discussed a “revised” schedule that essentially flips those two groups.
During a meeting held last Wednesday afternoon at the New Canaan Public Schools’ administrative offices downtown, the school board participated in a “workshop” on “healthier school start times implementation,” as follows, according to minutes of the meeting:
Revised Start Times Schedule
|Elementary schools||8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.||8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.|
|Grades 7 to 12||8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.||8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m|
|Grades 5/6||9:10/15 a.m. to 3:40/45 p.m.||9:10/15 a.m. to 3:40/45 p.m.|
All nine Board of Ed members attended, including three remotely. It wasn’t clear who else was in attendance. A note on the public notice published on the NCPS website said, “Due to space limitations, the workshop is not open for public attendance. Instead, it will be livestreamed at the link below.” Typically, regular Board of Ed meetings are streamed on the district’s YouTube channel and recorded. It’s unclear whether last week’s meeting was recorded. The meeting does not appear on the district’s online calendar or 2021 meeting schedule, both posted to the NCPS website (though other regular meetings of the elected body this month do).
According to the meeting minutes, submitted by Board of Ed Secretary Dan Bennett, “The revised school start time proposal follows from discussions that [Superintendent of Schools] Dr. [Bryan] Luizzi had with many NCHS students and other stakeholders in the community. Many NCHS students indicated an 8:00am start time was preferable to the 8:30am start time primarily given concerns about the later school end time and the impact on after school sports, other extra curricular activities, work and babysitting that many NCHS students participate in after school. Additionally, the revised proposal of an 8:30am start time for all Elementary Schools was discussed with some of the Elementary School principals and it may be less disruptive to teachers, staff and others in the community as the change for South School would be going from 8:15 start time now to 8:30am and East and West Schools going from 9:05am to 8:30am instead of going to 8:00am on the previous proposal. The Board discussed putting the potential school start time changes on the agenda for the December 20, 2021 BOE meeting to ensure the community has an opportunity to provide feedback to the BOE and the Administration.”
A new start times schedule, whatever it turns out to be, is expected to take effect next fall, district officials have said.
The Board of Ed’s vote for a new school start times schedule in June followed a failed referendum vote that would have removed about $460,000 from the Board of Ed’s operating budget for the current fiscal year—the amount of money needed for additional buses in order to enact the changes.
Those advocating for an 8:30 a.m. start time for NCHS have pointed to health data from the medical community regarding the sleep patterns and needs of adolescents. Many parents of elementary school-aged children in New Canaan pushed back on the proposed changes, saying the new start times were too early for their kids and would be highly disruptive to their families.
The Board of Ed had started discussing proposed changes to school start times at public meetings in 2017. After years of studies, surveys, workshops and meetings, the superintendent in January 2020 proposed a budget that included funding for new start and end times for the following fiscal and academic year. However, a divided Town Council during its final budget vote effectively forestalled the proposal. Luizzi’s proposed budget for the current fiscal year again included the funding for additional buses to change start times, and it was approved by the Board of Ed and town funding bodies.