New school start time frustrates parents

Nearly 500 people have signed a petition in under a month that aims to reverse the 30 minute delayed school start time taking effect next school year.

Graphic Dramatization by Giselle Oldani ’22

Nearly 500 people have signed a petition in under a month that aims to reverse the 30 minute delayed school start time taking effect next school year.

Giselle Oldani ’22, Web Arts Editor

Nearly 500 people have signed a petition in under a month that aims to reverse the 30 minute delayed school start time taking effect next school year.  

Westport parent Elena Shmonia started the petition, which consists of mainly preschool, elementary and middle school parents’ signatures. 

“From four years of age to 11, that is their childhood and they should be out playing,” parent Puneet Sarao said. “For school to be over at four [..] is just ripping them of their childhood.” 

The Board of Education’s (BOE) main reasoning for the decision was due to scientific evidence. 

“There is currently a national movement to make adolescent school start times later based on overwhelming and essentially unanimous scientific research,” Candice Savin, Chair of the BOE, said. “The circadian rhythms of adolescents [shift] and they are later and the quality sleep they need comes later at night and early morning.”

There is currently a national movement to make adolescent school start times later based on overwhelming and essentially unanimous scientific research”

— Candice Savin, Chair of the BOE

Another previously considered option was a change to the bus system. 

“In an ideal world we might go from a three tier [bus] system to a two tier system,” Savin said. “But the start time committee vetted that and determined that it would cost almost a million dollars more per year.” 

Some parents claim that high school students were prioritized over others in the focus on research. 

“[The committee] is not representing the entire town,” Elizabeth Coe, Westport mother, said.“There [has been] a failure of due process which they are required to abide.”

Many high school students are opposed to the later start time as well. 

“I think pushing [the start time] back will just cause more conflict with the after school activities,” Lily Harrington ’22 said. “I just don’t think a 30 minute change will have a big impact for teenagers.”

To receive as much public input as possible, the BOE communicated with each family through surveys and emails about the agenda, the school start time committees’ recommendation and dates for voting and public comment. 

However, in a BOE meeting on March 2, when parent Sofia Dumery asked for any oversight regarding the implementation plan or a timeline for when options for parents would be offered, she was met with little response. 

“I don’t have a concrete answer to your question but I know the administration is working as expeditiously as possible,” Savin said. “It’s challenging to have change in either direction [but] for [the] balance of all the students in Westport I feel comfortable this is the best path forward.”