Board of Ed Votes 6-2 in Favor of New School Start Times Schedule; Plan To Take Effect Next April

The Board of Education on Monday voted 6-2 to change to a school start times schedule that will see elementary schools start first in the morning (at 7:50 a.m.), followed by grades seven through 12 (8:30 a.m.) and then grades five and six (9:15 a.m.). Dubbed “Scenario A” by New Canaan Public Schools officials, the schedule would take effect next April. The Board had also been considering a “Scenario B,” which would have seen grades five and six start first (7:45 a.m.), follows by grades seven through 12 (8:30 a.m.) and the elementary schools last (9:15 a.m.). Saying additional school buses could be hired on a trial basis, Board member Dionna Carlson urged the elected body to either adopt Scenario A on the condition that the district “solve for” an elementary school start time no earlier than 8 a.m., or else adopt Scenario B.

“We need to sharpen our pencils—7:50 is nice but 8 o’clock is not an unreasonable request and I think that because we have these local schools, you could add a few more buses in the early tier and then those buses would be done getting those kids back quicker than they normally would be if it was a Saxe or high school drop off at the end of the day,” Carlson said during the meeting, held both in persona and via videoconference. “The research that I read about elementary start times is when you are looking at giving high schoolers more sleep, don’t ever do it at expense of the younger kids,” she added.

Survey: 93% of New Canaan Public Schools Parents Will Have Their Kids Start Academic Year with In-Person Learning  

Some 93% of New Canaan Public Schools parents are choosing to have their kids start the academic year with in-person learning, as permitted, as opposed to going fully remote, district officials said this week. Reporting on the results of a survey focused on an academic year that will open amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said Monday night that the parents of about 400 students still had not completed their survey, which was scheduled to close 2 p.m. Tuesday. “What we have to do is assume anyone who does not respond is in remote learning,” Luizzi said during a special meeting of the Board of Education, held via videoconference. 

The 2020-21 school year will open next Monday under a phased plan that Luizzi outlined at a Board of Ed meeting earlier this month (a continuously updated operations guide can be found here). It calls for students in grades one through 12 to be divided into one of two cohorts that will attend school in-person roughly half the week to start the school year (kindergartners will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions). Should health data and state guidance allow it, then starting Sept.

Board of Ed Debates Adoption of Proposed Goals on ‘Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’

The New Canaan Board of Education last week debated whether to adopt formal goals for the upcoming school year designed to address issues of race through staff training, changes to curriculum and parent education, among other areas. 

Draft goals discussed at the Board’s July 13 meeting (they can be found here, under Goal 4-2, and embedded below as a PDF) include creation of what would be the districts’ first “statement on equity, diversity and inclusion,” as well as an update on Social Studies curriculum and identification of “additional opportunities in other content areas to increase content on diversity and inclusion K-12.”

Some Board members voiced support for adopting the goals, while others said they were concerned about introducing the changes during an academic year that likely will include some form of distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic that strains the “bandwidth” of educators and where spending on schools is tight. Sheri West said she strongly supported the new goals and that it’s “crucial that at this moment in history, that we as a Board, as educational leaders in our district that we communicate the importance of these values and really truly that they are at the cornerstone of what we do—our values and our belief system and our actions.”

“I especially like the addition of the professional development and of the parent education,” West said during the 3.5-hour meeting, held via videoconference. “One thing I would like added is I believe in order for us to execute on these goals, we are going to need budget dollars to bring in an expert consultant. I don’t think this is work that we can do alone. I think many districts have already or are hiring DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] leaders for their districts.