Is It Time To Rethink Delayed Starts In School? [OPINION]
Whenever winter weather strikes it can be a bad situation across the Show-Me State. I remember as a kid, how much fun I had when a snow day would come up. You could get out and play in the snow, by sledding, making a snowman and even a family favorite was to make a car completely out of snow.
I remember waiting by the radio when I'd wake up just to hear if school would be cancelled. Now you no longer wait in the morning to hear whether or not school is out, but if there is a delayed start, an early dismissal or whatever.
I remember when the idea of the delayed start came up, I thought this is a great idea for when it snows and it's just going to take a few hours to clear off the ice and snow from the streets to make it safer for the school buses to go around and doesn't cause the school to have to tack on a day or have a day to make up during the school calendar year.
However, now schools are utilizing delayed starts to allow kids to get on the bus with a warmer temperature. A lot of schools have kids that get on the bus between 6 and 7 in the morning. In theory, the temperatures are going to be warmer at 8 or 9 in the morning. This theory has been the guidance that a lot of schools have tried following.
It may be time to rethink this theory. Today (Feb. 23) is a classic example of why I think the system of having a delayed start, only because it's cold, is flawed. I'm not the only one when I receive calls of 'why is the school announcing a delayed start?' or my favorite one that somebody forwarded a message from our site and just had a one word phrase, "Really".
Last night, the Sedalia School District, announced a delayed start because of the frigid temperatures. The temps were expected to be in single digits, with the wind chill feeling like it's below 0. The National Weather Service did not issue a wind chill advisory or winter weather advisory for the Sedalia area, however did advise that it would be cold, especially in the northern portions of the state, where it would be around 15 below zero with the wind chill. Around here, the expected low was to be ten below with the wind chill.
The actual temperature at 6:30 this morning was 9 degrees with a wind chill of 6 below, the temperature at 7:30 was 8 degrees with a windchill of 3 below and at 8:30 the temperature was 9 degrees with a wind chill of 5 below, at 9:30 the temperature was 11 degrees with a wind chill of 2 below.
Through those hours, that is a difference of 2 degrees and a difference of 4 degrees on the wind chill, when a lot of kids are getting ready to start the delayed start school day. Earlier this year, the temperatures were warmer at 6:30 than at 8:30, when another delayed start was put in place.
So what is it that we gained from this 2-hour delayed start? It certainly wasn't much warmth, but at least the sun came up. It is said that dark and cold conditions is what causes these delayed starts and that's it safer for bus drivers to see kids. If that were the case, why do we even pick up kids that early in the morning, especially in the winter months, when the sun doesn't rise until closer to 8?
Parents can really help matters by making sure kids are bundled up, wear bright clothing and have scarves, gloves or mittens to cover the hands and not have kids stand outside for long periods of time.
Maybe one day we can get to a point where bus stops can be made that will be heated or enclosed or lit up so the school day can go on normally. Until then, I stand by the claim that delayed starts should only be utilized in snowy, icy and extremely cold conditions. We shouldn't cancel or delay school for cold weather, unless the heat is not working in the school and the buses can't get started. Some kids don't even have heat at home and to ask them to stay at home, may actually be more of an issue than to get on a warm bus or into a warm classroom.
The decision to close a school or have a delayed start or early dismissal is a tough decision regardless, but if a standard is set and written up on how delayed starts are implemented with actual temperatures set, whether it be cold temperatures or hot ones, school districts and parents may be a lot happier.
I will continue to keep you up to date with each school district or organization that cancels or delays their event or start time and try to make your day easier.