School start times: Board cuts down options

Elementary schools could start as early as 7:35 next year, with some students getting on the bus at 6:50 a.m. Students at Ridgefield High School wouldn’t start until 8:35, and middle schoolers would begin their day last at 9:10 — getting out of school at 4 p.m. and off the bus as late as 4:50 p.m.

That’s one scenario the Board of Education is considering as it hopes to solve the district’s school start times problem.

It would save the schools $180,000 beginning in the 2018-19 school year, while retaining the current four-tier bus system.

A second option — one that has the district’s two middle schools starting at 7:55 and getting out 2:45, while pushing back the high school’s start time to 8:30 — nets $90,000 in savings next year.

Under that second plan, the elementary schools would start last and retain the current busing model with students from Branchville, Ridgebury and Scotland starting the day 25 minutes before students at Barlow Mountain, Farmingville, and Veterans Park.

Neither plan was free of criticism at the board’s meeting Monday night.

“I don’t hear anyone advocating for middle school students— that’s a very difficult transition,” said one parent. 

Addition and subtraction

The board’s school start times steering committee presented its shortened list Monday night.

The two options were whittled down from a list of four.

A third “Cadillac” option remains on the table. Under this scenario, all schools would start later than 8 a.m. — the ultimate goal of parent advocates. However, this model would cost taxpayers $1,530,000.

Some board members felt that expense was simply too great to not bring to the rest of the town.

“I’m uncomfortable with having that up there, considering the next item is a budget freeze,” said Vice Chair James Keidel. “That needs to go out to the whole community … it’s a lot of money [in increased taxes] for someone on a fixed income.”

The current start and release times for Ridgefield Public Schools are as follows:

  • RHS: 7:25-2:15
  • East Ridge and Scotts Ridge middle schools: 8-2:50
  • Branchville, Ridgefield and Scotland: 8:35-3:25
  • Barlow Mountain, Farmingville, and Veterans Park: 9:10-4