District Tracks Public Schools Enrollment As Realtors Anticipate High Number of Move-Ins

Though enrollment for New Canaan Public Schools next academic year remains largely in line with projections, district officials say they’re in communication with local real estate professionals who are anticipating a high number of move-ins from New York City amid the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

What initially had been a discussion about high demand in the local rental market now appears to be true for prospective homebuyers, according to NCPS Director of Human Resources Darlene Pianka. “I think the general consensus is that the spring market is just starting to happen right now,” Pianka told members of the Board of Education during their regular meeting, held Monday night via videoconference. “So houses are coming onto the market in a delayed manner. Where we would have been starting the housing market in March, things slowed down for those three months and are just beginning to pick back up. Anything can happen and we are certainly watching it every day.”

The comments, made in response to a question from Board of Ed member Sheri West, came as Pianka reviewed the district’s own enrollment numbers, based largely on data verification with public school families, and compared those figures against projections from the Marlboro, Mass.-based New England School Development Council, known as NESDEC.

After One-Time Suspension, Board of Ed To Reinstate Public Comments Monday

After suspending the practice for one meeting, members of the Board of Education said last week that they’re hoping to find a secure way for the public to offer comment before the elected body during remote meetings in the future. Receiving people’s emails isn’t an adequate substitute for the live public comment period that’s part of regular meeting agendas, according to Board member Dionna Carlson. 

“I wouldn’t want to see this going to the emails that just come to the Board, because that’s not public,” Carlson said during the Board’s March 30 meeting, held via videoconference. 

“There is a lot going on right now and I do think we need to find a way for the public to be able to address us through the digital platform,” Carlson said. She added, “I think it is is important for us to see and hear the public and for the remainder of the public to see what is being addressed to the Board. So I would not want to see this go to emails and things like that. We just need to figure out how to work with [New Canaan Public Schools Technology Services] to keep these random things off the Zoom platform or go to a different platform that is more secure.”

She referred to inappropriate material that appeared during recent public meetings held by other municipal bodies in New Canaan on Zoom videoconferencing software—a practice known as “Zoom-bombing.”

Board member Bob Naughton suggested the district look into webinar platforms that require advance registration. 

Board Vice Chair Brendan Hayes said it was a good idea to “pre-clear those who are going to speak.”

“It is a bit difficult, I think, but my guess is we are not going to have a huge number of people during this period of time,” he said.

Board of Ed Backs $92.8 Million Spending Plan; Final Recommended School Start Time Schedule Still To Come

The Board of Education on Tuesday night voted 6-1 to recommend an approximately $92.8 million spending plan for next fiscal year. The budget brought forward by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi and endorsed by the school board during its regular meeting represents a 1.47% increase over current spending—within Board of Finance guidelines. 

It includes about $950,000 needed for new transportation costs that would come with a revised school start times schedule, though it is unclear which of two equally expensive start time scenarios the Board of Ed ultimately will recommend. 

The first scenario, studied and discussed extensively for months, would see the three elementary schools start together at 7:45 a.m., followed by the seventh and eighth grades at Saxe Middle School and all of New Canaan High School at 8:30 a.m. with the fifth and sixth grades at Saxe starting together at 9:15 a.m.

Major advantages of that schedule include starting school late enough that adolescents get sufficient sleep, district officials have said, citing established medical data and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It also would see all three elementary schools get onto the same start and end time schedule and avoid having those young kids in school late into the afternoon, when anecdotal evidence says they tire out, officials have said. Yet based on strong feedback from the community, including families with kids in elementary school, Board of Ed Chair Katrina Parkhill said the elected body may consider another scenario that “flips” the first and last “tiers.” In other words, the fifth and sixth grades would start at 7:45 a.m. while the elementary schools would all start at 9:15 a.m., she said. “This scenario may more appropriately balance schedules, in response to family and community needs,” Parkhill said during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at NCHS.

‘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.