Later start times? Petitioners want a vote

Petitioners may seek a town meeting to reconsider the school board’s year-old decision to pursue later start times for Ridgefield High School. But the question of whether a town meeting has that power is being investigated by town attorneys.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi described the situation to the Board of Selectmen’s Nov. 13 meeting.

People want to petition for “a town meeting to vote against the school start time change, as voted on by the Board of Education,” Marconi said. “The question is: Does the town meeting have authority to change a vote of the Board of Education? I don’t think so.”

For that reason, he’d asked town attorney David Grogins to look into the legal precedents and case law, and suggested to school board chairwoman Frances Walton that the school system’s attorneys, Shipman & Goodwin, also research the matter.

“I spoke to Fran Walton today, and also spoke to Dave Grogins,” Marconi said.

The petitioners want to reverse a decision the school board made a year ago to pursue a later start time for Ridgefield High School.

Among the difficulties is that changing the start time at the high school — currently the school on the earliest schedule — affects bus schedules and start times for all the middle and elementary schools.

The school board has been studying various plans to make the high school later without pushing other schools into new time slots that seem too early — but that may involve adding buses, which cost money. Some are less, but estimates have ranged up to $1.8 million.

If the attorneys rule that a town meeting can’t overturn a school board vote, Marconi said, opponents of the decision have talked of expressing their displeasure through the budget process, which allows townspeople to vote on an appropriation for the Board of Education.