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.
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.