Open late, or not at all?

Published 8:09 pm Thursday, October 1, 2009

Well, children, it was fun while it lasted.

Suffolk Public Schools is now considering delaying the opening of schools for one to two hours when inclement weather or other hazardous conditions would make a normal opening dangerous.

Previously, the schools rarely had delayed openings and instead would take off the entire day in the case of bad weather or conditions.

“In the last 20 years, for the most part, the division has closed schools for a full day when warranted by weather, road conditions, or other emergencies,” Suffolk Public Schools Public Information Officer Bethanne Bradshaw wrote in an email to the News-Herald. “In an effort to preserve instructional time, administrators recommended that the option of delayed openings be considered more often. For example, a delayed opening after a winter storm might allow time for roads to be cleared enough for safe bus travel. A delayed opening might allow electricity to be restored, or for buildings to warm up or cool down after an overnight outage.”

According to Suffolk Public Schools administrators, bus pick-ups for all students — preschool through high school — would begin either one hour or two hours later than normal pick-up times, depending on the announced delay.

Families would be notified of the delay through the same radio and television stations that normally announce school closures. Additionally, announcements would be posted on the division’s web page, www.spsk12.net, and could be sent out via the system’s new automated phone calling system.

While this would a new practice for Suffolk schools, Bradshaw said, neighboring school districts have morning delays more regularly, often because of heavy morning fog.

Bradshaw said because delayed openings have been so rare in the past, the system wanted families to be prepared.

“The division wanted to provide details on how a one-hour or two-hour delay would impact students, faculty, parents, and the community,” Bradshaw stated. “Families should consider making contingency plans for such an event.”

According to the school system, elementary students would not be allowed to arrive before 9:30 a.m. on a one-hour delay, and 10:30 a.m. on a two-hour delay. Secondary students would not be allowed to arrive before 8:20 a.m. on a one-hour delay, and 9:20 a.m. on a two-hour delay, because staff would not be available to supervise early arrivals.

In either of those delay scenarios, breakfast would not be served, but lunch would.

Dismissal time and after-school activities would remain the same, unless otherwise noted.