Board of Ed Discusses Flipping New School Start Times for Elementary, NCHS Students Next Year


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

 Previously approvedRevised
Elementary schools8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Grades 7 to 128:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m
Grades 5/69:10/15 a.m. to 3:40/45 p.m.9:10/15 a.m. to 3:40/45 p.m.
Source: Board of Education website


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.

4 thoughts on “Board of Ed Discusses Flipping New School Start Times for Elementary, NCHS Students Next Year

  1. How is this new schedule not seen as a far better solution for our children and community? High Schoolers get more sleep (up to 4.5 hours extra a week combined with new block scheduling at the HS), while lessening the potential harm to the health and well-being of nearly 1,500 elementary school children and their families. All this at NO additional cost to us taxpayers when compared to the original plan.

    Yet some proponents of the old proposal continue to insist on an 8:30AM start time for High Schoolers, citing CDC sleep guidance, completely ignoring those very same studies as it applies to younger children. In addition, there remains significant research as well as medical professionals who clearly warn of the potential dangers of starting elementary schools this early (compared to top schools in the area, in the state and nationally). This research has been provided to the Administration and BOE. Some of these medical professionals have even offered to speak to the administration in the past.

    I remind proponents of the original plan that numerous surveys appear to indicate that the plan does not work for many, a point made crystal clear by a whopping 76% of over 800 High Schoolers who opposed the current plan in their most recent survey. In addition, our valued staff of teachers and administrators appear to oppose this plan in surveys taken. Frankly, there is also indication that many parents oppose the current plan in numerous surveys. So, I encourage all to please get behind this new schedule, which may not get some everything they want, but far better considers all students, staff and families in our town.

    • James Yao, how do you calculate an extra 4.5 hours sleep for high schoolers on an 8 am start?? Current start time is 7:30 am. Over a 5 day week x 0.5 hour later start, the math gives 2.5 hours additional sleep.

  2. Happy Holidays… No need for the formality of my full name :-). I believe I mentioned the inclusion of newly instituted block scheduling options which could mean up to 2 additional hours a week that can be shifted to later in the day. In the example provided at the Dec 8th workshop it was suggested that a High School student may currently be able to have their day start at 9:30AM one day a week (2 extra hours).

    However, that being said I think even without the block scheduling this current solution is more equitable and healthier, when considering all students. In addition, I believe High School students really let us know about their thoughts on the original plan when they took their survey last month, it really was pretty overwhelming. I hope you find this solution a fair compromise and can support this alternative. Best Wishes for the Holidays…

  3. Hi Karen, Further clarification on the Block scheduling was provided from Dr. Luizzi’s podcast this evening. I believe he indicated that 91% of the High School students could be getting 85 minutes or more and half of those students could have 2 or more periods of free time, which could mean 170 minutes (nearly 3 hours) or more for nearly half of the HS students. I think the weighted average does come out to about 2 hours but would need further clarification from the administration on that. I hope that helps…

    However, as I mentioned before I feel that even without the block scheduling the new alternative is a more equitable solution for all. For many East and West elementary school parents they believe that giving up 35 minutes to get High School students 30 minutes is a fair and more manageable compromise for all. I hope you feel the same.

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