This week on 0684-Radi0, our free weekly podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to Karen Willett, a creator and leader of Healthy School Start Times New Canaan, about the group’s formation and mission, and its assessment of where things stand now with respect to the start times of New Canaan Public Schools. This installment of 0684-Radi0 is sponsored by Ally-Bally-Bee, a gift and home store with high quality and on trend handcrafted goods and fine art. Located on Elm Street in the heart of downtown New Canaan, Ally-Bally-Bee will host a trunk show on Friday, May 3rd for Hip V Modern Vintage Jewelry. There will be discounts and a raffle for a vintage piece, so be sure to stop by from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Board of Education members on Monday night debated whether to remove an expensive option to start school times later from a survey of the school and wider community that is to go out next week. It would cost an estimated $1.2 million to $1.4 million annually beyond what New Canaan currently pays for its “three-tiered” busing system (about $3.2 million per year) to switch to a “two-tiered” option that would require more buses to get kids to school.
Whereas the public schools currently start between 7:30 and 9 a.m., the two-tiered option—the most expensive presented by a consultant in November—would see all of Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School start at 8:15 a.m. while all three elementary schools would start at 9:10 a.m.
Noting that the district doesn’t yet know what its spending request for fiscal year 2021 will be, Board of Ed Chairman Brendan Hayes said that if “we think we are going to reallocate $1 million of our budget into a two-tier system and we decide that it’s in the best interests of students to remove that $1 million from two or three programs—and we think because of all the work that we have done, with the administration, that that is the absolute best thing that we can do for all of the students in New Canaan—then that is what it is.”
“That is what we should bring forward,” he said during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “We may decide that we want to increase the budget by that incremental $1.3 million and we can explain to everybody in town why we are doing that, why it is the absolute best thing for all the kids in town,” Hayes added. “And it may be the Town Council and Board of Finance disagree with us and say, ‘You’ve to cut $1.3 million.’ OK, then we are not making that change.
Saying pipes will need to run to South Avenue from a planned power station behind New Canaan High School, the town’s highest elected official said he is in favor of laying that route by creating a new road through a wooded portion of Waveny Park. Such a road also would help ease traffic at the school—a hurdle in creating a workable busing system as part the district’s efforts to start high school later, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during a press briefing last week. “We have to bring the pipes from the power plant behind the high school that we are going to build over to Saxe and the YMCA,” Moynihan said during the briefing held Thursday in his Town Hall. “It would be logical to bring it through that area and it is not wetlands. It can be done.
Local elementary schools could start as early as 7:30 a.m., with New Canaan High School starting later in the morning and all of Saxe Middle School starting last, under a new proposal that Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi unveiled Monday night. Citing anecdotal evidence that younger children tend to tire in the afternoon, Luizzi said the proposed new system—suggested by New Canaan Public Schools Transportation Coordinator Roy Walder—could largely preserve the current and cost-effective three-tier busing system, though it also comes with tradeoffs. “I’m not going to say this is the scenario I am recommending yet, because there is more work to be done,” Luizzi told members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School and attended by about 25 parents. “But I want to share it with you because work is being done and continues to be done. The magnitude of the change—it moves everybody.
Pushing back the earliest school start times by 45 minutes—and doing so without significantly changing the day for those in kindergarten through sixth grade—would cost nearly $1.4 million annually, a consultant told the Board of Education last week. The added cost, which would bring the district’s total yearly busing expenses to about $4.6 million, represents the estimated 14 additional school buses that New Canaan would need to change its highly efficient, current system of three busing tiers down to two tiers, according to Mark Walsh of Walworth, N.Y.-based Transportation Advisory Services.
Yet even if the Board of Ed wants to go in that direction, finding additional drivers to operate those buses likely would prove difficult, Walsh told the elected body at its regular meeting, held Nov. 19 at New Canaan High School. “You have been fortunate that you have been able to have a sufficient roster of drivers,” he said. “Part of it is because of the labor agreement that they have, and that labor agreement provides for a six-hour day.