New Canaan parents again ask for later school start times
NEW CANAAN — A group of New Canaan parents is asking for the formation of a committee with public meetings and the opportunity for parental input on the issue of school start times.
The topic was not on the Board of Education’s May 7 meeting agenda, but Martina Kaiser and two New Canaan parents used the public comment period to state their case.
“I’m here to ask the board to open up a formal and public study to evaluate starting schools later for teens,” Kaiser said. “What we hear is that the science is backing the need for later start times for teens.”
Kaiser said later start times could help reduce the risk of suicide and decrease tardiness and the number of motor-vehicle accidents involving students.
Another parent, Megan Steele, said when students are sleep deprived, the chances of sports injuries are higher, and stress and anxiety can be more common.
“We know we need to understand the cost, the logistics and the possible solutions, but we believe we must put our teens’ health first and take a holistic, creative approach to making this work,” Steel said. “Can we be assured that you will vote to create a formal and public committee on school start times before any recommendations or decisions are made by the administrators group to the Board of Education?”
Since the remarks came during public comment, the board did not respond to the mothers’ request at the meeting.
The urging of parents at Board of Education meetings for later start times has been a common occurrence all year. A website, startnewcanaanlater.org, was started, on which a petition to move high school and middle school start times from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. or later, addressed to the board and administration, has gained more than 600 signatures, Steele said.
The comments on Monday came a few days after a presentation and panel discussion on May 3 at New Canaan High School led by Dr. Craig Canapari, director of Yale’s Pediatric Sleep Center, organized by Start School Later New Canaan and the League of Women Voters. At that meeting, parents said they learned New Canaan was among only 10 percent of districts with 7:30 a.m. start times. The other 90 percent either start later or are considering later start times.
He and Board of Education Chairman Dionna Carlson did not respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, parents are anxious to see a change.
Kelly Gray, who also spoke at the meeting, said her ninth- and seventh-grade children often get home later from after-school activities and then have to finish homework before getting to bed, cutting into hours they should be sleeping.
“We struggle to get to school on time, and I’m sure we’re not the only ones,” Gray said.
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