27 thoughts on “Superintendent: Final Review of Proposed Changes to School Start Times Coming This Month

  1. As parents of two elementary students and a middle schooler, we support the change in school start times and are very pleased to see the years of work by Dr. Luizzi and our Board of Ed moving forward. Thank you to our Board of Finance and Town Council for unanimously voting to fund the BOE budget next year. Our family greatly appreciates the support for our schools and the work of our Superintendent.

    • As a parent of an elementary child and a preschooler I also want to express my support for the proposed change to school start times and my gratitude to Dr Luizzi.

    • Hi Anne and Karl, Hope you are well. As the parent of a kindergartener and 2nd Grader, my children will be subject to a combined 5 years of this early start time, I am counting next year as a half year for both my kids. I am especially concerned about my kindergartener who, like many others her age, is trying to find her academic footing. Not sure how old your children are but obviously if you have 3rd or 4rth graders this early start will have minimal or no adverse affect on them at all.
      However, I believe that regardless of the ages of my children I would never support this proposal. It just seems unfair to the largest and most vulnerable segment of our school population. If you only heard the disappointment, surprise and outrage of so many parents as they first hear about this I would hope you would feel the same way.
      There is a better alternative. Dr Luizzi has provided us the pieces to the puzzle, lets put them together for a better solution for all our towns children.


  2. Thank you, Mike, for writing a fair and informative article with the correct facts about the referendum, which if successful would send the BOE budget back to BOF for re-approval, *not* re-open start times discussions as some have advocated. The budget has already been approved unanimously by both the BOF and Town Council.

  3. Michael,
    You should ask the BOE 3 questions:
    1) Why does the BOE think a mid-year implementation of the school start time change is a good idea for New Canaan, its residents, students and families.
    2) How has the BOE changed its plans (reflected upon its proposal) based upon parental / resident feedback to this plan.
    3) We have the lowest birthrate in the U.S. since the 1970’s – how does the BOE think that this plan will help New Canaan attract new families – once the Covid burst from the cities ends considering New Canaan PreK will start at 9-9:15, K-4 at 7:45, Saxe 5-6 at 9:15 and 7-12th at 8:30. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-05/u-s-births-drop-to-lowest-level-since-the-1970s-amid-pandemic?cmpid=BBD050521_CORONAVIRUS&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=210505&utm_campaign=coronavirus&sref=EFFVCwWO

      • They are relevant for the community to understand why we are spending $460k next year to make this change and why it could not wait for the start of the following school year, which would be much easier for everybody to manage. Also we need to understand if the BOE is listening to all residents of town or if they are ‘just’ proceeding irrespective of resident feedback – residents (taxpayers) are relevant as they fund the BOE. Demographics are key as if we are looking at declining enrollment over the coming years we will be faced with either cost cutting needs or increased cost per student (declining economies of scale). Lastly when you talk with the BOE you should ask them why they are so comfortable planning start time change next winter but still can’t commit to parents that school will be run 5 full days per week next year (continuation of half day Wednesday’s). People are returning to commuting (Or will be very soon) – we need to be able to plan – we can’t just wing it and hope it all works out with taking care of our kids.

        • Just make your assertions then, Giacomo. Don’t recast your position as loaded questions, as you did here, and then tell me I should be asking them. The New Canaanite has taken no position on changing school start times, don’t intend to. What we have done is cover this issue since it emerged at a Board of Ed meeting in August 2017. You seem to think that because your perspective on school start times hasn’t upended the school board’s proposal that its members aren’t listening or don’t understand you. Does that say something about them or does it say something about you?

          • Hi Michael – you are most likely right and I certainly accept your feedback – I appreciate the direct response. My point being that I thought these issues were relevant for the town and it’s discussion on this issue and I was not aware the questions had actually been answered. The reason I asked you to ask the BOE was I thought you might have more luck than me in getting them. Anyway let me know where I can find them. Thanks and have a nice day.

  4. Thank You Mike for bringing attention to just some of the issues we see in the current proposal. We continue to be frustrated that the BOE and administration continues to completely ignore the mounting research warning against early start times for the elementary school children. Why can’t some vocal proponents of this plan consider any compromise to what they know objectively to be a very very early time for our youngest? (Earliest in all of Ct and an hour earlier than our peers).
    There was a 2-Tier solution presented previously, which would be a much better solution for all. Proponents have claimed that this solution does not exist. However, Dr Luizzi indicated that it was indeed a possibility at his Town Council presentation just weeks ago, but that it could mean almost an hour between tiers. If we are to take his word for it, as opposed to the word of proponents, who are supposed to have no more knowledge of the scenarios than us. Than why can’t we have 2 Tiers with a 8:15AM start for High Schoolers and 9:05AM for the second Tier? That would be 50 minutes between tiers, certainly near the hour Dr Luizzi expressed just weeks ago.
    This seems like it would be fairest for all. High Schoolers would get 45 minutes of extra sleep, if they chose to use it, and would give the fair start to our children’s education that many current High School children received. Please consider the detrimental affects this plan will have on so many children and families before dismissing any alternative that will not get you all what you want.

  5. I find the assertions that Dr. Luizzi and the BOE simply don’t care about elementary aged children and their families or are de-prioritizing them unfair and frankly, offensive. Dr. Luizzi and the BOE did study this, extensively, and did survey elementary school parents and include them in the discussions. Just because you personally didn’t have a seat at that table doesn’t mean you can upend the entire process to suit your individual needs.

    Also, I understand (correct me if I am wrong) that parents are being told that the change in public school start times will also affect start times for pre-schools, which is categorically false. Are you telling people that to get more signatures? Are you also informing people that the proposed budget cut might not effect start times but might cut something else, as the BOE will retain the power over where that cut will go? Please be honest with those from whom you are seeking signatures.

    • Hi Hilary, I do express my regret that I had to come to those conclusions, as I truly wanted to believe that the Administration and BOE was looking out for all our children equally. But as I stated, the precedent, science and research has been provided and the pleas of desperate parents have been ignored. I am not sure how involved you have been with the process and I don’t want to presume anything. When you say that the BOE and Administration has studied this extensively, why does there appear to be no research or study on the potential detrimental affects of this early start on our youngest. This is part of the plan you claim has been studied, is it not. But invite all to refer to the BOE website where there is much research on adolescents needing more sleep, but almost nothing on our elementary school children, despite this the fact that this research has been provided to the administration and BOE.
      Please also note the difference between listening to feedback and actually considering it in your decision. They did indeed take a survey of over 3,000 stakeholders, guess which scenario was most strongly opposed, This One. They had another survey that October and guess which scenario scored the lowest again, This One. After the initial outrage when they first introduced this plan last January they took another survey on Scenario B, and again appears to have ignored the results. So, I absolutely agree that a system should not be upended for the wants of a few, but from all the surveys it appears you are actually a member of the few. However, as I have suggested in the past, lets find out if this drastic change to our school system is what stakeholders actually want. The administration has everybody’s email, just send an email out to the Parents, Staff, and HS students. How inexpensive and definitive would that be?
      Regarding signatures for the petition, to my knowledge I don’t know of anybody stating that Pre-school start times would change. However, I have heard from preschool parents that preschool starts would now be an hour and a half dislocated from elementary school starts, which would make it very difficult for any family with more than one young child to juggle as, unlike high school kids, both children would need a lot of help to get ready in the morning and both would now need to be up at 6:00-6:30, since you don’t want to leave a young child unattended at home while you wait at the bus stop with the other. I believe we have been very transparent with our signature requests and have freely and easily removed signatures of people who subsequently had any doubts or reservations. We do not want or need to fabricate any false narratives, nor do we want any signatures from those who do not feel comfortable doing so. Simply put we have more than we need.

      • It is impossible for a school system had to accommodate the needs of each individual family, and it should not be expected to do so.

        The thing I don’t think you all understand is that, this isn’t an issue that can or will be solved with money, or even wider streets. There are two options—stick with the current schedule, or move — in 8 months, plenty of time for the school to roll out after school plans and families to figure it out accordingly — to the new start times. That’s it. Those ARE the options. So choose your lane. What would you prefer? And if you pick option A (stick with the same schedule), and that’s the result of this referendum, I don’t expect to hear a single complaint from you guys when your kids are in middle and high school and having to wake up super early. Because you and I both know the universal truth — kids don’t keep.

        • There are more than two lanes, as I understand it. Every one of the three tiers can be moved back a set number of minutes (say 20 minutes to make elementary starts later than 8 am), 5th/6th grade can be flipped with elementary school so that only two grades would have to start at 7:45 am instead of five grades, and I have not seen anything to indicate a two-tier solution (as part of this high school would start at 8:15 am and elementary would start at ~9:10 am) is not logistically feasible. Apparently New Canaan had a two-tier solution at one point (I can’t find it in a search but I have heard of it multiple times). The town’s population has barely nudged since 1990 so I don’t know why a two-tier solution would be any less viable in terms of traffic/logistics now. A two-tier option was presented to parents as an option in the Hanover study in 2019 (see pages 11-12 where they cite 5 different options, not 2: https://www.ncps-k12.org/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=3432&dataid=20987&FileName=School%20Schedule%20Survey%20Analysis-New%20Canaan%20Public%20Schools_June-2019.pdf), after later start times had already been researched for a considerable period of time. It’s very hard to believe that Roy Walder’s (NCPS transportation coordinator) input was not factored into this extensive survey before it was sent out.

          On another point that has come up in this discussion: I do think the BOE cares about the well being of young kids, but the plan they have chosen to this point does not reflect what is best for many young kids (and many dual working families) based on the research I have read, anecdotal experience in talking to other parents of elementary school kids, and my own experience as a parent of twins at East school. Other options can improve a solution for a greater subset of parents/kids in my view.

          Finally, a comment not directly related to all of the dialogue in this thread: as someone who has both written letters to town bodies and is now receiving them, comments that incorporate a sourced objective document or show that the person has a good understanding of all the considerations a town body has to make and what is truly under its purview carry more weight. It shows when someone is only writing to vent or insult versus writing to express a critical/non-critical alternative view based on reading background material overlapping with what a town volunteer is reading, or maybe even beyond that. Again, this isn’t specific to anyone’s comments here because I think all of the commenters on this thread make more attempts than most to be well informed, so it’s disappointing that there is still a gap in the facts we’re debating. That gap can be bridged with better transparency and communication from the Administration.

  6. The intention of the petition is very clearly stated, in the paragraph at the top of the document. The action of the petition, to withhold the specific amount required by the BOE to implement new start times mid year (which is half the total amount required as it is desirous to split the cost across fiscal years), reflects the motion put forth by Michael Mauro at the 25th March Town Council meeting on the BOE budget. This is the only legal mechanism, and a last resort, for the MANY parents, inclusive of middle school and high school parents, who do not think the proposed new start times are healthy, advantageous or appropriate. Parents have turned to this petition after exhausting the more traditional and copacetic channels. In TWO separate surveys (Hanover Group), commissioned by the BOE and paid for with tax dollars the proposed new start times (scenario A) were shown to be the LEAST popular among parents, students and staff, which begs the question: why is the BOE pushing forward with start times opposed by the majority? At the 29th April BOE meeting it would be appear that the BOE is revising start times, as suddenly there was discussion on other scenarios — and yet no formal recognition of such. Let us hope this is a genuine effort — scenario A has proved to be wildly unpopular. The wisest course of action would be to find a solution that works better for ALL children. A million dollars is a lot of money to spend on a bad plan. There is no perfect solution— there will be have to be comprise all around but there is certainly a better one.

    • I completely understand what the intention of the petition is, but that doesn’t answer my question, which is—are you telling people who sign it what the alternatives are? That yes, it might result in a change in the change in start times but alternatively, it might result in cuts to other programming in order to keep the proposed change in start times? My only hope here is that those signing — and those who might vote in an upcoming referendum — are doing so based on fulsome, accurate information.

  7. People keep saying this option was the least popular in the surveys. But it was the most popular among parents (i.e. taxpayers) in surveys and focus group (not that any option was a clear winner by any stretch, because everyone wants something different). Only when you include teachers, who are 90+% opposed to any change, do you get the skewed result you keep describing. I know that the people who keep repeating this ‘fact’ are aware of that but in case anyone else is reading. Personally, I think Dr. Luizzi is the best person to weigh teacher input into this decision.

    • Karen, I simply don’t see the point of having a survey which you believe includes all the relevant stakeholders (with factual basis on why they are) and then selectively eliminate groups, because they do not favor your perspective. The 2 groups you would prefer to discount (HS Students and Staff) are indeed stakeholders and this decision affects them more on a daily basis than it affects you or I. In making the reference (i.e. taxpayers) it implies that the exceptional staff that teach and nurture our children everyday are not integral parts of our children’s lives, but mere cogs in a wheel. Perhaps I am naïve but I very much consider them partners in our children’s upbringing, in the few years that my children have attended our schools I have seen the dedication and effort they put in day in and day out. They don’t punch a clock, often working before and well past the school day. However, if you still view them as mere widget builders consider this, a happy employee is a productive and engaged employee. Also, an employee who feels that they are valued and considered makes better products (better children in our case). So, any way you see our teachers, partners (as I do) or cogs it makes sense to value their feedback.
      As for High School students, we have been consistently surprised by the number of HS students who do not want the schedule change, especially those who play sports. Now you can discount their opinions as well, and claim that many of these students who are old enough to drive a car cannot make decisions for themselves. Do HS kids do things that are not the best for them? Sure, we did them also and continue to do so. (This dripping cheeseburger in my hand being a case in point). However, one thing that doesn’t appear to change nonmatter the age is that you can’t make kids sleep. We have heard numerous comments from HS students that say practices will be later and everything will just shift back and they will just stay up later. I remind you that many of these students will be off to college in a year or two and need to face the same responsibilities we did when we left home.
      That being said, I continue to support High schoolers getting more sleep. So why can’t we go with the 2-Tier option? Although you say it doesn’t exist Dr. Luizzi said it did in his last Town Council meeting just weeks ago. Are you saying he was mistaken? Or are you privy to analysis and scenarios that even the administration does not have.
      Its been a really tough year for all of us. So, please consider as little as a 15 minute concession and lets work together to get something that, although not perfection for High school students, would be much better for all. Let’s not keep dividing our town…


      • I don’t think it is necessary to clarify why it is an important distinction to say that parents supported this proposal more than the others. The entire premise of your arguments is the elementary parents are wildly unhappy about it. And, fun fact, elementary parents were better represented in the survey than upper grades. Lastly, as much as I like to think I run the place, it matters not one bit whether I support 8:15 or not. This isn’t my plan. But for the record, I would be fine with 8:15. Do you really think my personal unwillingness to budge from 8:30 is what’s keeping them from a different plan? Funny.

        • Karen, What??? You would be fine with an 8:15AM HS start time? What are we all arguing over then? I think we all have much better things to do with our time, like finishing this cheeseburger for me. I know that you, as I, cannot speak for others but Anne, Barbara, Janie, Heather, others can you consider as little as 15 minutes to save so much grief and hardship for many young families? Let’s push the Administration to get it done and reunite the town…

  8. Karen, Apologies for not including this in my previous response, but even amongst your selected subset of only (taxpayers), isn’t the 2-Tier solution indicated in the survey at least as, if not more, popular than the current proposal? Mike, Sorry in advance for driving you crazy..

    • Yes they were about even, with 3 tier slightly ahead. And 2 tier causes a slew of other issues, is more expensive, doesn’t even work traffic-wise, and after considering that and stakeholder feedback, Dr. Luizzi ended up recommending the 3 tier. After carefully considering all of the options and the drawbacks of each of these and other scenarios. That, in a nutshell, is the answer to Pua’s question: “In TWO separate surveys (Hanover Group), commissioned by the BOE and paid for with tax dollars the proposed new start times (scenario A) were shown to be the LEAST popular among parents, students and staff, which begs the question: why is the BOE pushing forward with start times opposed by the majority?” Because 1. parents preferred it (or disliked it the same as every other option, including the current, if you want to look at it that way, bc the one certainty about school start times is that it is impossible to please everyone) and 2. 2 tier isn’t workable. (Also, a nit – there weren’t two surveys with scenarios so not sure what Pua is talking about here.)

    • I’m not sure why we keep discussing other options from the survey when subsequent traffic studies and research indicate fairly clearly that they aren’t feasible options. The options are the proposed changes to start times or the status quo. If the referendum succeeds, and the budget is in fact cut, and the BOE sees fit to cut the funding set aside for additional buses to accommodate the change in start times, we are out of options and we stay with the status quo.

      • If a 2 Tier solution is completely unfeasable why did Dr Luizzi indicate that it was an option that was dismissed because it would be almost an hour between Tiers. That was at the town council presentation just weeks ago. In addition, werent the bus schedules and traffic studies used to come up with the scenarios for the survey? What has changed since then? We now have a projected decrease in enrollment and I dont know of any sudden change in traffic patterns since then. So, why is a valid scenario now invalid with no change to the variables. Why do you seem so married to this specific scenario that you remain completely unopen to the possibility of any other option. How has Westport Greenwich and Norwalk made it work? Some with just as many miles of roads and all with more students. So, my question to you is this. Would you be OK with a two tier scenario and as little as a 15 minute concession on HS start times? Could you support it and help us all push it through for the good of all our children?

      • This is an important point that Dr. Luizzi has explained repeatedly why he brought forward his recommendation and why he deemed it preferable to the many other scenarios that were considered during his four years of work on this topic. Dr. Luizzi has also stated that he plans to optimize the scenario that he brought forward. Parent opinion is only one of many factors that Dr. Luizzi had to balance. Also, this is Dr. Luizzi’s proposal. Parents have provided input for years; but it is not the plan of any individual or group of parents. There are also numerous constraints that do not seem well understood by some residents who are opposing his work. I am one of many who support the work of Dr. Luizzi and the BOE. I also join many in our community who prefer an earlier elementary start time to later. We’re all entitled to our preferences, and it highlights the difficult job of Dr. Luizzi and the BOE to balance all factors and make a recommendation.

  9. I would suggest anyone who does not think there is a scenario outside of scenario A (the new proposed start times) read through the materials from 29th April 2021 BOE workshop/ meeting on school start times. The BOE discussed start time scenarios at that workshop (I know this because I attended) — scenario A is not in fact the only option and it is not set in stone. Have a look at scenario B, which was presented as a handout at the meeting (and can be accessed online @ the NCPS start time website), and discussed at the workshop. It is not simply scenario A, or the current times. It doesn’t look like a video of the workshop was posted but the materials are here: https://www.ncps-k12.org/Page/6558. At that same meeting the BOE is now talking about holding off implementation of any new start time scenario until April 2022, and using that time frame as a “trial” period — so if new start times are implemented in 2021/22 school year it won’t be until the last few months of the school year. So in all reality true change, in whatever form that takes, is not coming until the 2022-23 school year.