‘I Am Being Put in a Very Difficult Position’: Board of Ed Divided on Proposed School Start Times Scenario

Board of Education members are divided as to whether they have enough feedback and information on a revised school start times schedule to recommend this month that hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending for additional buses be included in a proposed budget for next fiscal year. No one disagrees that starting grades seven through 12 at 8:30 a.m. as opposed to 7:30 a.m. would benefit students in important ways—established medical research recommends later start times for adolescents. 

Under a favored scenario that district officials have developed, New Canaan’s elementary schools would start at 7:45 a.m., though because morning buses could start their routes from the geographically distributed neighborhood schools rather than New Canaan High School, the first student wouldn’t need to be picked up until 7:06 a.m. (currently 6:27 a.m.) when it’s sufficiently light outside that flashlights aren’t needed. 

Yet that proposed new schedule also forces a bus usage system that’s far less efficient than the one New Canaan Public Schools now employs, and it would require about six or seven additional buses—at a clip of $100,000 in additional annual spending, per bus—to make the favored start times scenario work. Board of Ed member Dionna Carlson at the elected body’s Dec. 16 meeting called it “a very expensive option that will go up 3% every year, in perpetuity.”

A similar start times scenario garnered low levels of support in surveys conducted earlier this year, she said, and there are unanswered questions about just how it will affect students seeking extra help from teachers, among other concerns. To include funding for the busing system as part of the school board’s Jan.

District: 116 More Students Than Projected Enrolled in New Canaan Public Schools

When the academic year starts next week, New Canaan Public Schools are expecting to see 116 more students K-12 than had been projected, district officials reported Monday. 

The above-projected figure of 4,180 total students reflects higher-than-projected registration across all levels, with the elementary schools 79 students over projections, Saxe Middle School 18 and New Canaan High School 19, according to Darlene Pianka, the district’s director of human resources. The overall figure does not include pre-kindergarten. “Big numbers,” Pianka said during the Board of Education’s regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at NCHS. The figures show that “there is clearly demand for New Canaan Public Schools,” Board Chairman Brendan Hayes said. “This is great news, I mean seeing 116 students overall greater than what we predicted is pretty amazing and remarkable,” he added.