Dr. Karen Baldwin, Superintendent of Ridgefield Public Schools, reports the Board of Education has approved a change in school start times to more closely align with the research on student sleep and health. The change will take effect in the 2019-20 school year to provide sufficient time for community collaboration, education, logistical review of transportation services, and development of policies and practices to nurture the holistic development and wellness of every student.
In effecting change, the Ridgefield Public Schools community has begun the process of thinking deeply about the skills and characteristics students will need for the world they will live in as adults. As part of this examination, Ridgefield Public Schools focused on teaching and learning, organizational design, and leadership. In collaboration with staff, students, parents, and community members, the District has created a bold, student-centered Mission and Vision of the Graduate that is based on personalizing teaching and learning, promoting common high expectations, cultivating student aspirations and ambitions, and wellness of body and mind.
This decision to change school start times in the 2019-20 school year reflects both an understanding of the implications of the scientific research and the legitimate concerns of the community as it relates to parent’s schedules and childcare, sports and extracurricular activities, and after-school work issues. “Change is a process, not an event,” Dr. Baldwin said. “The foundation of this decision is to continue to move forward in the best interest of student health and well-being. We have identified the challenges, and this recommendation provides us with the time needed to address the concerns as part of our implementation planning.”
The district will now begin the work of gathering critical information for a successful implementation. Those areas include but are not limited to: refining the school bell-time scenarios, examining local traffic impact, analysis of student ridership and bus fleet needs, review of athletics impact and the current FCIAC Position Statement, State and local budget status, and in the near term surveying middle and high school student’s perspectives on homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, physical health, stress, parent expectations, academic integrity, and teacher support through the Stanford University Challenge Success survey.
“The work of the entire system is focused on our Mission to provide engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences all students can pursue their interests and prepare for life, learning, and work as global citizens. This is evident as we revise our curriculum, continue to develop our system of intervention and enrichment, and revise elements of our policy framework. Changing school start times is an important part of a much larger framework of meeting the needs of all of our students.”
The leadership team will also immediately begin work with the Strategic Planning Committee of the Board, and the District Steering Committee to define a plan that
mitigates the impact of the disruptions to Ridgefield parents, students, and staff. Busing advisors, School Bus Consultants, will be asked to further refine its potential scenarios and seek efficiencies that will reflect both healthier start and end times for all students and budgeting concerns. Additionally the district’s human resources will be re-allocated, allowing for revised workloads and provide individuals with the time needed to review all the data and proposals, meet with consultants and the leadership team, and have input into workflows and deliverables, as well as provide professional development for our teachers as they work to support overall wellness for our students.
According to Board of Education Chairperson Frances Walton, “this change will support the RPS work in the vision of a successful graduate. It will also support the mission statement which strives to promote wellness of body and mind, and to foster academic, social and emotional growth for all students. The board and school administrators will work with educators, students and parents to ensure a successful implementation of new start times.”
For further information on Ridgefield Public Schools, our mission and vision of the graduate, and the research on healthy school start times, you may visit our website at www.ridgefield.org or contact Dr. Karen Baldwin, Superintendent of Ridgefield Public Schools, (203) 894-5550, Ext. 1200.