Westport BOE stand firm on later start times decision
WESTPORT — The Board of Education unanimously denied a request by a parent to renew discussions on later start times, saying they were hesitant of the precedent it could set.
On Feb. 10, the BOE voted 5-2 to have all Westport schools begin 30 minutes later for the 2020-21 school year. The decision sparked controversy with a number of elementary educators and parents, and one parent creating a petition to reverse the decision.
“I don’t believe we can take things like this and go back and re-visit a vote that we’ve already taken, or else we’d be doing that with every single controversial subject,” BOE member Karen Kleine, who voted against later start times, said at the meeting on Monday.
BOE member Vik Muktavaram echoed her sentiments and highlighted the work done by the School Start Time Committee, composed of parents and educators, over the course of two years.
“It was always a trade-off between what was good for the students and what might potentially affect a certain percentage of the families,” he said. “In the end, I think the way the committee voted, and which the board also supported, was looking at the majority of the student body. This was a decision that would be beneficial to students, recognizing that there would be challenges to some families.”
To accommodate parents’ concerns, the district’s administration outlined a new partnership with the Westport-Weston YMCA to provide morning care at each school.
Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said more than 700 parents were surveyed with early indications showing about 50 students per school would need the program.
“The majority of the families indicated they would prefer an on-site program as opposed to a central location and then we would transfer the students to their schools,” Buono said. “So we worked to provide that type of program for our students.”
The program would offer a variety of activities, study options and breakfast snacks for kids. The programming, fee schedule, money collection and hiring will be done by the Y, Buono said
“The collaboration part is that we’re going to provide them space in each school to run the program,” he said. “The district will not be charging them rental fees to do so.”
He added there are ongoing discussions on a reasonable fee for parents, with a fee schedule expected to be outlined by next week. Applications are expected to go out to families the first week of June with notices sent out just prior.
“This is really a lot of wonderful work,” BOE member Youn Su Chao said. “ I think the YMCA will be great partners for our school.”