School Start Times: Referendum on Board of Ed Budget Fails [UPDATED]
A referendum vote Wednesday that, had its petitioners succeeded, would have decreased Board of Education spending by about $460,000, failed to draw enough electors to carry, officials say. Just 1,914 total ballots were cast in a referendum vote designed to strip the school board of funds earmarked for costs associated with changes to school start times in New Canaan, according to Town Clerk Claudia Weber.
For the effort to succeed, a total of 2,046 cast ballots—that’s 15% of the electorate in the latest registry list—needed to be marked “Yes” on following question (and needed to be a majority of those voting), according to Weber: “Shall the action taken by the Town Council at its March 31, 2021 meeting, which did not reduce the Board of Education budget by $463,337, be overruled and returned to the Board of Finance for reconsideration?”
Of those who did cast ballots, 808 voted “Yes” (including 58 absentees) while 1,106 voted “No” (including 38 absentees), according to Weber. The $460,000 figure largely reflects the amount of money needed for additional buses in order to introduce a new start times schedule that would take effect in the middle of the 2021-22 academic year. In it, all three elementary schools would start at 7:45 a.m., fifth and sixth grades at 9:30 a.m. and seventh through twelfth grades at 8:30 a.m.
Proponents have pointed to scientific data regarding the negative effects of a lack of sleep for adolescents. Opponents have said the planned changes will negatively affect elementary school kids.