No two school districts are alike when it comes to determining whether to delay or cancel classes during inclement weather, area superintendents said.
Weather impacted the schedule at Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools each day this week. Superintendent Keith St. Pierre took a fifth calamity day Tuesday and called for a two-hour delay on the other school days. He said most parents assume the delay was caused by extreme low temperatures, but St. Pierre was considering other factors, including geography and the conditions encountered by bus drivers heading out on routes as early as 6:20 a.m.
“We have some hilly rural routes,” St. Pierre said. “What the two hours does – and everybody thinks I did this because of the cold – actually we did it to give daylight for the drivers. They can better see the kids. If there’s ice around the bus and a kid slips, there’s that visibility for the kids to see the bus and the driver to see the kids. It gives us more time to make sure we check the buildings. Run the buses to see that they’re operational and good to go. And if they’re not then I can switch from the delay to the close.”
Kevin Bell, Trotwood-Madison City Schools superintendent, said when severe conditions threaten, a team monitors the weather and keeps in constant communication with the school’s facility staff and the city.
“There’s no hard, fast rule, each community is different depending on where their buses have to travel. Some of our buses have to travel out on country roads so we have to make sure our roadways are passable enough, and safe enough as we’re driving out in the remote areas,” Bell said.
According to John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, the state has no laws governing parameters for cancellations or delays to the school day.
“It’s left up to the local districts. They know what’s best for their areas,” said Charlton.
The West Carrollton School District has used five calamity days this year, but Superintendent Rusty Clifford is reluctant to call for delays.
“We’re a suburban district of 10 square miles in the southwestern portion of Montgomery County that’s all built up around us. We’re not Brookville, sitting out there with open fields and students who have to walk a pretty good ways,” said Clifford.“Our kids’ longest walk is probably 30 feet down to the bus stop.”
When determining whether to call for a delay, Clifford said superintendents try to determine if conditions will improve over that time.
“A perfect example was Wednesday. We came in and it was minus five. Two hours later it was minus 2. There’s no difference, so why delay?” Clifford said.
Delays also can pose child care dilemmas for parents, according to Clifford.
“For a lot of families, a delay really messes them up. They have to go to work, so who’s going to watch the kids,” he said.
Child care also is cited by Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Lori Ward for the district’s practice of not calling for school delays.
“We couldn’t do a two hour delay, for instance, on Monday, without our families getting prepared. Many people might not be able to stay home with their child for two hours,” Ward said. “We do not have internal systems that we could take children for two hours. So there is a large amount of planning for that to occur.”
DPS transports 11,830 students on 171 routes to 60 locations. More than 5,000 of those are students at private schools contracting with the district for transportation. Dayton is considering changing its delay process, but to do so it would have to factor in a large amount of high school students that use Greater Dayton Regional Transportation Authority for transportation to school, Jill Moberley, spokeswoman for the district.