Greenwich Schools Chief on Delayed GHS Start Time: “Very Aggressive” Timeline

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 8.02.08 AMOn Sept. 14, Greenwich School Superintendent Dr. McKersie outlined a very aggressive timeline for a possible delayed start time at Greenwich High School, but emphasized that ultimately, the decision will be made by the Board of Education.

“Anyone who says I’m dragging my heels on this is wrong,” the Superintendent told Tony Savino during an interview on WGCH 1490. “Most superintendents aren’t touching this.”

In August, Board of Education member Peter von Braun organized a rally to raise awareness and build momentum toward a delayed start time at Greenwich High School.

The voices in favor of the changing the start time from the current 7:30am included Peter Tesei and his opponent for First Selectman, Democrat Frank Farricker.

peter von Braun

Dr. McKersie said there will be multiple public forums beginning in October, with one on the east side of town and one on the west side of town. He mentioned there there will be Spanish translations available.

“This issue came from the community and a couple board members,” McKersie said, adding that although the logistics of busing are tremendous in a town as big as Greenwich where so many children take school buses, “the science is clear.”

“Right now it’s a fast track to consider options for the 2016 school year,” Dr. McKersie said. “I have to submit a budget in November to the Board and have to know if there will be a cost for school start time.”

1981 GHS block schedule.

McKersie said that based on what is being done around the country, a half dozen options are being explored by the steering committee which he said includes parents, activists and administrators. “It’s advisory, to give advice on the various options.”

On October 8, during the Board of Ed work session a range of budget costs will be presented. “And if the expenditure is made for the delayed school start time, we’ll have to explore what will be removed from the budget,” McKersie added.

In Nov,  McKersie will make recommendations to the Board, after which there will be more public forums.

In December the Board will determine whether to proceed at all, or for fall 2016, or possibly wait for fall 2017.

Mr. Savino asked for examples of what costs might be incurred. “We do a fair amount of  busing here and for the private schools, which we’re required to do by law,” McKersie said, emphasizing that transportation is the key cost. He said there are 16,000 districts around the country, and about 100 districts have instituted a change to start times.

Dr. Rosa Fini

At the August 20 rally at Town Hall organized by Peter von Braun, Dr. Rosa Fini said her four children had all been “flogged” by early high school start times. Credit: Leslie Yager

“Each bus costs us $70,000 and we run 29 buses at Greenwich High School,” McKersie said. “So we can’t simply double it. We can’t just change at the high school. We have to look at changes at the middle and elementary school level.”

Also, the Superintendent said impacts on contracts will have to be explored. “We’ll have to look at implications for teachers and others under contract, but the main issue is  transportation,” he said.

“This is a Board decision. It is not a fait accompli,” McKersie said. “The science is clear, but it’s not a done deal.”

“Elementary school families may have to go to school much earlier, but at the end of the day, I will present options to the Board. Then the board will decide. It’s that big of a decision.”

See also:

Delayed School Start Rally: Voices in Favor of Change Include Tesei and Farricker

Expert Panel Explores Delayed School Start Times for Greenwich by Uma Ramesh