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Sunday, August 19 News

School Start Time Committee closing in on June proposal

WESTPORT — Some schools’ opening bells could ring as late as 8:55 a.m. during the 2019-20 school year if the Board of Education chooses to adopt one of several plans presented by the School Start Time Committee.

Preliminary suggestions by the School Start Time Committee were discussed at the Board of Education’s meeting on Monday.

“The science behind sleep and the benefits of sleep is very convincing and is certainly very important,” said Westport schools’ Director of Pupil Services Mike Rizzo. “We need to make sure that whatever recommendations we make take into account the science and the entire system of which we are a part.”

Rizzo is part of the 21-member committee that includes teachers, administrators, public officials, members of the public and a student, tasked with examining the effects — logistical, financial, traffic and otherwise — of making a shift.

In one of two options, based on the logistics of bus routes laid out at the committee’s March meeting by School Bus Consultants, Bedford Middle School and Saugatuck Elementary School would open at 7:45 a.m. and close at 2:30 p.m. Staples High School and Coleytown Middle School would open at 8:20 a.m. and close at 3:05 p.m. and the remaining four elementary schools would open at 8:55 a.m. and close at 3:40 p.m. No new buses would be required, and the school could possibly save on its bus contract depending on the length of shifts, according to the consultants.

The second option would have both middle schools opening at 7:45 a.m. and close at 2:30 p.m. Staples and Saugatuck Elementary School would be open from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. Greens Farms and Kings Highway elementary schools would be open from 8:40 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., and Coleytown and Long Lots elementary schools would be open from 8:55 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. In this model, two to five additional buses might be needed.

“I think we have a real possibility to effect change,” said Vik Muktavaram, a board member on the committee.

The committee will issue a parent survey of the options and, using those results, hopes to present several scenarios to Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer in June.

“We were really hoping to gather lots of information from different vantage points so that we knew some of the areas of concern, as well as some of the arguments for looking at a change in start times,” said Christine Wanner, K-12 health and physical education coordinator at Westport schools.

Palmer is expected to make a suggestion to the Board of Education in June, and the board is expected to vote in the fall for adoption in the 2019-20 school year.

Board of Education and committee member Candi Savin said the decision to change start times was an important one and worried the board was rushing the matter.

Asked by board Chairman Michael Gordon if a suggestion could be made by the June deadline, Rizzo was careful but confident. “I think we’re going to be able to make a recommendation. I’m cautious about how firm that will be,” Rizzo said.

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justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1; 203-842-2586

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