Those seeking to remove about $460,000 from the Board of Education’s budget for next fiscal year—the amount of money needed to bring about long-discussed changes to school start times—have obtained the necessary signatures on a petition to allow for a referendum vote on the funds, according to Town Clerk Claudia Weber.
The Town Clerk’s office has verified the petitioners’ 682 signatures and now New Canaan’s legislative body must set a date for the referendum vote, Weber said in an email Tuesday to several officials, including the first selectman and representatives of the Town Council and Registrars of Voters.
The date and time for voting must be set before June 6, and the Town Council must decide “if explanatory text is necessary,” Weber said in the email.
“If the date is after May 20th, Covid will not be allowed as an excuse for an absentee ballot,” she said, referring to the date that Gov. Ned Lamont has set for the lifting of COVID-19-related executive orders in Connecticut.
The petitioners are challenging the Town Council’s decision to reject a motion at its March 31 meeting. There, Councilmen Mike Mauro and Maria Naughton voted in favor of a motion to reduce the Board of Ed’s operating budget by $463,337 and Councilmen John Engel, Rich Townsend, Sven Englund, Steve Karl, Penny Young, Liz Donovan, Cristina A. Ross, Mark Grzymski, Tom Butterworth and Robin Bates-Mason voted against.
The proposed start time changes—for elementary schools to start at 7:45 a.m. (currently 8:15 a.m. and 9:05 a.m.), New Canaan High School at 8:30 a.m. (currently 7:30 a.m.), seventh and eighth grades at 8:35 a.m. (currently 7:30 a.m.) and fifth and sixth grades at 9:15 a.m (currently 8:15 a.m.)—would take effect in the middle of next academic year, under the district’s plan.
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.
At a Board of Ed meeting last week, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said district officials this month will review more specifics of the proposal prior to formally planning for its implementation.
In an email to the New Canaan Public Schools community Tuesday, Luizzi said that at a recent workshop and “in response to public feedback,” the Board of Ed “ agreed to review three potential scenarios for further discussion and consideration at its upcoming meetings in May.”
“In preparation for these upcoming meetings, the administration is updating and preparing three potential scenarios for school start and end times,” he said in the email. “Each scenario has opportunities and constraints, and the Board will be reviewing and discussing each in the weeks ahead as it considers which is the healthiest and best schedule for all of our students. As this work is proceeding, we are also putting together an implementation committee of parents, faculty, staff, and administrators. This team will work together to identify and resolve challenges, capitalize upon opportunities, work with external partners, and regularly communicate progress with the entire New Canaan community.”
The Board of Ed’s next regular meeting is scheduled for May 17.
We have a world class leader in Dr Luizzi. After the year we have been through and the guidance he provides, he has my support for his budget for sure.
Do you have this concern Jayne for elementary school kids starting at 7:45 under the current later start proposal that I assume you expressed for high school kids starting at 7:30: “Jayne Benton told the school board that she has a very straightforward safety concern about early start times because she is sending her child to the end of a driveway with trucks whizzing by while it’s still dark out, jus to be able to catch an early bus.” (https://newcanaanite.com/parents-advocate-for-later-school-start-times-before-board-of-ed-63506)
A 2-Tier solution (instead of the 3-Tier solution initially proposed by the Administration) would provide continuity in elementary school start times (South would start at the same time as current, East/West would start 5 minutes later than current), while high school would start 45 minutes later at 8:15 versus 7:30 currently — a significant improvement for high school while conforming to CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, while also being better for many dual working families of elementary school kids that would have greater after school costs in East/West from end of day being at 2:15 instead of 3:15.
What are the specific objections you or others have with a 2-Tier plan and is it possible to have a deeper, more well informed discussion than we’ll go along with whatever the Administration initially proposed?
A referendum is disappointing to say the least. Dr. Luizzi has gone above and beyond to support our schools during this incredibly challenging time. Please allow the school start times to proceed as planned.
I am a mental health provider and an NC mom. I wholeheartedly support Dr Luizzi’s plan. This referendum is a waste of taxpayer money and serves no purpose other than to divide our community. We should support Dr Luizzi as he moves forward with this much needed schedule change.
Our family supports the work of Dr. Luizzi and the BOE. Also, the BOF and Town Council unanimously voted to fund the BOE budget this year. We will be voting AGAINST the referendum to cut school funding. It is disappointing to see town resources used this way after our elected officials have already performed a lengthy review and approved this budget. Please let Dr. Luizzi do his job….a job he does so well.
We support the years of research and planning Dr. Luizzi and team have put into this decision for all New Canaan kids- present and future. We will be voting to support his budget!
Dr. Luizzi has proven time and again that he has the best interests of all students in mind when making decisions on behalf of NCPS. You need only look to what was accomplished under his leadership and vision during the last 15 months of this global pandemic. He has worked tirelessly with his team and the BoE for four years on the issue of start times. He is world class and deserves our full support. Let’s allow him do the job he was hired to do – to act in the best interests of all of our children in all matters that impact them at school.
After all the time and effort put into adjusting school start times AND after all our school board, led by Dr. Luizzi has done to support our community during this difficult year, I am very disappointed that a referendum to cut school funding is on the table. I support Dr. Luizzi and the entire school board, and will be VOTING NO on a Referendum.
I’m worried this sets a bad precedent for using referendum to reverse line items from the BOE Budget. Let’s be clear, the BOE Budget has already been approved by the BOF and TC, evidencing town government’s faith in Dr. Luizzi’s leadership. Let’s show him some support by supporting our schools and voting NO to reduce the BOE budget!!
It also can’t be refuted that the proposed scenario while doing well for 7-12 students puts our youngest (k-6) at risk which represents just over 50% of our student body. What we need is a plan that supports the health and well being of all our students.
There was a reason Dr. Luizzi did not want this in the goals for this year as COVID is all consuming and no additional work was able to be done what is essentially no spare time. He was backed into a corner which is not something we should have allowed. So here we are again with the same bad plan. And the Board was forced to vote on a scenario a year and a half ago – they didn’t want – what they wanted was a solution that solved for 8am – this was never asked of the consultant. Go back and look at the recordings from the consultant meetings. When it comes to the health and wellness of all our children we should not have backed anyone one body into a corner like we have experienced.
Since a year and a half ago over 20+ pieces of research not included on the BOE site have been submitted saying that sleep is absolutely required for all students and flopping start times has detrimental effect on younger ages. This should give us all pause and say – faced with new information how do we adjust. It is a sad state that we as a community can’t support this and look to a solution that works for all students. They will soon be posted on http://www.ncstarttimeequity.org
This is also the voice of a wide assortment of families – preschool through high school on the petition – much more representative than the Hanover Study. This should also cause pause. Had the initial data collection been handled differently we may not be in this situation. We can not go back but rather go forward and fix it. It doesn’t dismiss work that has been done but rather build on it for something better. There are alternatives.
Let’s also not forget that this solution will not be implemented until potentially April 2022. Let’s get this right for all our children’s sakes.
And for those who don’t like the precedent of a referendum – this is what is allowed based on our Democratic fundamentals. This is the checks and balances when all else fails. And some towns – a referendum on the BOE is every year – we don’t have that. It is now being used since it is the only recourse and our (many in our town) community feels strongly. We are blessed to have this right. And also blessed as a community that we feel in most years – in fact almost all – we don’t need this as a tool to balance the wishes of a community. Let’s not pull extremes into a unique situation – clouds the facts and true nature of what is occurring.
In reading through everyone’s comments here I can’t really say it any better. I agree with my fellow NC moms & I am in full support of Dr. Luizzi and our school board.
I support the BOE and the Superintendent and am grateful for everything they have done to keep our students safe and happy over the past year.
I also believe they have gone down the wrong path with their proposed start times plan. Moving the high school start time later is a worthy goal, but should not be done at the expense of kindergarteners. This town deserves a better plan. The nearly 1,000 signatures on the petition for referendum are a clear signal that the BOE and the Superintendent must find a way to have reasonable start times for students of all ages.
I am not sure why few proponents of this plan, the administration and BOE seldom even acknowledge that this plan would, objectively create a very very early time for our youngest learners. This would be the earliest time in all of Ct and an hour earlier than peers. That is a part of this proposal as much as the change in High School start times. A mounting amount of precedent, research and science has been provided to the administration, warning of the potential detrimental effects of early starts on young children, yet if you look at the BOE website it still does not exist, again as if these early starts were not part of the plan.
What is more baffling to me is that proponents of this plan refuse to consider any other alternative, including a 2-Tier solution that would save so much hardship and grief for families in town. Potentially as little as 15 minutes could completely remove the risk to elementary school children. Yet they would rather force children as young as 5 to choose between sleep and ripping a commuting parent from their lives all week. The administration has stated as recently as their last workshop that a 2-Tier solution was a possible scenario, however, proponents refuse to consider it. If there is indeed a way to implement a 2-Tier scenario why are you not even open to the idea, knowing what this current plan will do to so many. Frankly, I find it a heartless not to explore every option we have and simply subject so many children and families to this added mental, physical and financial hardship. My question remains to proponents of this plan. Can you help support a plan that would get a 8:15AM High School start time (Still one of the latest HS start times amongst peers and in Ct) and not put our young children at risk?
This thread is closed.