Letter: Remove start times funding from 2018-19 school budget

To the Editor:

Ridgefield schools are currently embarked on an unpopular effort to change school start times, despite significant local evidence that the effort carries not just heavy financial costs and many unintended consequences (traffic, student employment, extracurriculars).

Given the chaos surrounding school administration and leadership, the lack of budget transparency, and a town that overwhelmingly has stated that they do *not* want to move start times, I strongly recommend that funding for the SSL program be removed from the 2018-19 budget, and the program delayed until:

  1. We have a permanent superintendent in place, who will review the current program and own the program in its entirety, including all consequences … both intended and unintended.
  2. We have the support of the community to move forward. The recent surveys of parents, students and staff showed very clearly that this initiative is not wanted at this time.
  3. We have the millions of dollars in funding to support this initiative.

Cutting curriculum, art, music, or just about any other current program in the name of saving the SSL funding would merely cement the taxpayer’s perception that the school budget lacks proper transparency. This year, it’s very important not to start the “budget blackmail” of previous years, where the schools threaten to sacrifice vital programs to scare the voters.

If we’re truly worried about sleep habits of our students, there are steps that we can take … today. Let’s start with a focus on the use of “screens” and social media before bedtime, and our homework policies.

Let’s step back from the SSL rhetoric, listen to the parents, students and staff that were very clear about their feelings, and pick up the program again when there’s a constituency that wants it, a stable administration to “own” it, and funding in place to support it.

Sean McEvoy

Peaceable Street, April 9