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School Start Times update

BOE discusses School Start Times following survey results presentation


New Canaan Public Schools


At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, held June 25 at NCHS, the BOE discussed school start times following a presentation by Dr. Bryan Luizzi that summarized the results from NCPS’s school start and end time survey administered online in May 2019. The purpose of the survey was to continue providing the BOE sufficient information in making a fully-informed decision on whether or not school start times should be changed district-wide.


Following the presentation, the Board reviewed and offered opinions on the survey results. It did not make any definitive decisions regarding changing school start times, however, and suggested further work was needed involving clarity on certain issues, including bus schedules and after-school activities, before any final decision was to be made.


The survey instrument - School Schedule Survey Analysis – was prepared by Hanover Research and was designed to gather opinions and perceptions of the district’s current school schedules compared with alternative school schedules and the impact these schedules would have on district stakeholders. The survey included results from 1,464 middle and high school students, 1,390 parents/guardians, 549 staff members (certified and non-certified), and 115 community members.


The general question, as to whether or not one was in favor of changing school start times, had the following response (selected from a random sample of open-ended responses from each group):

  • 54% of parents supported a change; 42% did not.
  • 42% of students supported a change; 52% did not.
  • 23% of staff supported a change; 72% were opposed.
  • 40% of community responses supported change; 53% did not.


Participants were asked to rate their opinions of each of five school start and end time options, consisting of the current schedule, a two-tiered option, and a series of three-tiered schedules. In general, support for each schedule option resulted in cumulative data that was inconclusive. For example, the degree of support for each of the five schedule options ranged from 23% to 33% strongly opposed; 17% to 21% opposed; 10% to 17% neither support or oppose; 16% to 24% supported; and 15% to 26% strongly supported.


Dr. Luizzi explained that the study of school start times is part of the overarching theme for improving student health and wellness. It joins other district-wide health and wellness programs such as the emotional learning and school climate initiatives. The survey, itself, continues the district’s school start and end times initiatives that include partnering with Transportation Advisory Services (TAS) to perform a transportation study, organizing a district and community-wide focus group, attending conferences, and reviewing the research in support of a change.


“The process, as we’ve been following it throughout the course of the year, has worked well,” said Dr. Luizzi. “We’ve been building our knowledge, learning about the complexity of this work, and sharing feedback and information from other districts. We’ve been sharing what we’ve learned along the way. We are purposefully approaching this issue as learners so that, when appropriate, the Board and the district will be in the best place to make the best decisions.”


Of the five schedule options offered in the survey, parents and students felt that the best schedule for emotional health was one that had all three elementary schools starting at the same time (7:45 a.m.), followed by NCHS (8:20 a.m.), and completed by Saxe Middle School, all grades (9:05 a.m.), known as the Three Tier, Version 2 option.


In the conversation that followed, the Board reached consensus on further developing the Three Tier Version 2 option, which earned the highest ratings in terms of perceived positive impact on physical and emotional health of students. Board members encouraged further discussion on this time change option that included looking at staff response, organizing working committees that include parents and board members, and looking at specific challenges this new schedule may cause, such as having all grades at Saxe arriving and leaving at the same time.


The Board asked the administration to further develop this scheduling scenario for continued deliberation in the fall. In the end, the Board reiterated its commitment to optimizing the school system on behalf of every student and its continued focus on addressing the physical and emotional health of all students district-wide.