Focus group discusses later school start times
NEW CANAAN — If you move school start times by even 30 minutes, a lot could change, parents, administrators and district officials discussed at a meeting Oct. 24 at New Canaan High School.
That includes the time parents wake their children, estimated commute time, after-school activity schedules and school buses.
“It would make a huge difference between getting up at 6:15 a.m. or 7 a.m.,” Jennifer Gage, a parent of two children who attend Saxe Middle School, said. “Seven a.m. is a more natural time. They need their eight hours of sleep.”
Gage said that the health of her children was the paramount concern.
“We’re the last ones to get picked up and that takes place around 7 a.m.,” Gage said. “It’s like they’re in college and one has to drag them out of bed.”
New Canaan High School starts at 7:30 a.m. as do seventh- and eighth-graders at Saxe Middle School. Fifth- and sixth-graders at Saxe currently start their day at 8:20 a.m. West and East elementary schools start at 9:05 a.m. and South School starts at 8:15 a.m.
The focus group that assembled at the high school included the principals of various New Canaan schools, teachers, Board of Education members and athletic coordinators. The discussion was moderated by Todd White, president and CEO of the educational consulting firm, PhocuseD on Learning.
Factors that were consistently brought up were commutes and transportation.
Gary Kass, the human resources director for the district, said many of the school employees do not reside in town and that changes to their schedule would affect their commute.
“Seven hundred and fifty staff members don’t live in town,” Kass said. “People are exchanging their commutes to find places closer to home.”
New Canaan High School Principal Bill Egan alluded to the Greenwich public schools, which changed its schedule last year.
“They changed their schedule and they had so many early dismissals for athletics so they shrunk their schedule,” Egan said. “So you’d be taking away instructional time — it may not be the best way to do that.”
Discussion about later start times at New Canaan schools is nothing new. It was previously listed as a district goal for the 2017-2018 school year.
At a Jan. 22 meeting earlier this year, parents argued that their children required more sleep. Some cited a 2014 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommended pushing back start times to 8:30 a.m. to ease students’ sleep cycles.
Wilton established its own later start times in 2003.
The Board of Education will discuss the later start times at its Nov. 19 meeting at which will be invited to comment.