Later school-start time options outlined
NEW CANAAN — The discussion for later school start times continued with parents, town officials and students voicing their support for the initiative.
At the Board of Education’s Monday meeting, Alicia Meyer, a member of the Health and Human Services Commission, said school start times are a public health issue.
“The science of supporting the school start time at 8:30 a.m. for adolescence is compelling,” Meyer said.
Research shows starting school at that time or later would align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, who need about nine hours of sleep per night, she said.
Adolescents typically fall asleep around 11 p.m., and with some students being tasked to wake up at 6:15 a.m. getting the required sleep could be difficult, she said.
After hearing from the community, the board was presented several options moving forward. Transportation consultant Mark Walsh said the first option is to allow students at New Canaan High School, South Elementary School and seventh and eighth graders at Saxe Middle School to start at 8:15 a.m. This option would also call for 14 additional buses.
“A school bus costs you about $100,000 a year,” Walsh said. “There may be a cost involved, but anything can be changed.”
Fifth and sixth-graders at Saxe, as well as students at East and West elementary schools would start at 9:10 a.m. with this option. This was the most expensive option, costing an additional $1.3 million for the district.
Option two would see no increase and have all the schools starting 15 minutes later. Option three would see South Elementary, as well as fifth- and sixth-graders starting at 7:30 a.m. The high school, as well as seventh- and eighth-graders would start at 8:15 a.m. East and West elementary students would start at 9:05 a.m.
Walsh said option three would add three buses and cost an additional $295,000 annually. The final option would group the schools like option three, but with a start time 10 minutes later. Option four would call for six additional buses and cost an additional $590,684 a year.
“Bottom line from a transportation perspective — can a late start happen? Yes,” Walsh said. “Will there be a cost ramification? Depends on what start time you pick and scenario you do.”
No decision was made at the meeting, with board members wanting the public to have an opportunity to comment on the new options. The board’s next meeting will take place Dec. 3.