Finance board asks: How can school board stick by current start times?

With the health and wellness science and potential savings in busing costs both seeming to argue for changes to school start times, Board of Finance members wondered how the school board could justify not making the decision to change them.

“Your mission statement, the second line, states ‘health and wellness,’” finance board member Jessica Mancini told a delegation of school officials Tuesday night, Oct. 17. “We know from the science standpoint we should.”

Superintendent of Schools Karen Baldwin, school Finance Director Paul Hendrickson and board members David Cordisco and Margaret Stamatis met with the finance board the night after survey results and statements at a two-hour public meeting suggested that sizable majorities of parents, students and staff were all most comfortable keeping the current school schedule.

Finance board Chairman Dave Ulmer said he understood that the public’s reaction would make a decision to change start times more difficult.

“That’ll be a tough uphill climb,” he said.

Mancini pointed to the cost of studying the issue.

“We’ve just spent almost $85,000,” she said.

Hendrickson said a sizable portion of that was a cost for staff time of people who were already school employees. “$24,000 is staff already in the budget,” he said.

“Are you actually contemplating status quo?” Mancini asked.

She didn’t understand how the school board could regard that as a potential option, given that scientific studies show it’s less supportive of kids’ health and well-being, and it’s also more expensive than two of the three other options — one that would save $90,000 by eliminating a bus, and another that could save $180,000 by cutting two buses.

“I’m very concerned about keeping the status quo on there,” Mancini said.

Savings and costs

Another option looked at could cost $1.5 million more than the status quo, finance board member Michael Raduazzo noted.

The projected savings of $90,000 or $180,000 on bus costs shouldn’t to be counted on, finance board member Sean Connelly said, pointing to the Greenwich schools’ experience with changing start times.

“I assume there’s going to be implementation costs. In Greenwich, they needed a few more buses,” Connelly said. “Any sense of what the implementation costs are?”

“No,” Superintendent Baldwin replied. “We don’t know what the implementation costs are.”

Connelly had another question.

“As a superintendent, do you have a perspective? A recommendation?”

“That’ll happen Monday night,” Baldwin replied.