Better late than never


Grace Vance

CPS delays school three times in first two weeks of school
Since the debut of late start days on Jan. 6 some students and teachers have felt not only the cold seeping in, but also the consequences of a developing protocol. The recently installed weather policy causes all CPS schools to have a two hour delay from the normal start time when the early morning has wintry weather that should be clear by the afternoon. Despite the helpful intentions of the late start policy, the delay has caused issues for some students like senior Matt Jacobson from HHS.
Jacobson was ready for the second semester of his AP computer science class at the CACC. But instead of beginning the year well, he quickly fell behind at the start of second semester.
“I started off second semester immediately behind because I missed a day in AP computer science. Catching up in that class is not an easy thing to do,” Jacobson said in an e-mail interview. “The programs we write aren’t saved over the cloud and are exclusive to our school computers, making it difficult to finish something at home.”
When CPS calls a late start day only RBHS students attend classes at the CACC because it is only a short walk, whereas students at HHS, BHS and other schools must have transportation to get to the building. This became a struggle not only for students at the CACC, but teachers, having to modify their schedule and lessons around late start as well.
“On late start days I only get Rock Bridge students in class,” Patrick Sasser, CACC Digital Media teacher, “so over 50 percent of my class is missing in [my] AP computer science class because half of [their schools don’t] send students [to the Career Center] that day.”
Sasser believes the late start schedule is “not the best for Career Center teachers who have multiple sending schools” like how a few of his classes are like because a lot of students are missing valuable class time. This leaves teachers contemplating on what to do when class on a late start day comes around.
“It’s [the question of if] I should progress the students who are actually here or should I keep them in a holding pattern, and essentially waste a day?” Sasser said. ”It’s kind of [a matter] that happens a lot in education especially with this situation, when it’s a no send, by no fault to those students who go to [school outside of Rock Bridge that can’t] make it over here because the buses don’t come and they are told not to attend this school. What do you do in class that day? That’s the main question.”
Although the creators of late start days knew problems would arise with the new weather protocol, they still held true to their belief in safety. The administration team in CPS originally came up with the idea of late start. The team is comprised of the superintendent, deputy superintendent and assistant superintendents of elementary and secondary education, as well as Linda Quinley, the chief financial and operations officer. They first began talking about the possibility of introducing late start days in the summer months when accumulating snow days over the year interrupted summer school preparation.
“The conversation [about creating late starts] began as we reflected on the difficulty at the end of the year last year trying to get the makeup days in before summer school started,” Quinley said in an e-mail interview. “We discussed how bad it is for continued learning when we have a snow day here and there to interrupt the school year.  We know it is always better to keep kids in school on a regular schedule.”
When discussing all the issue that come up after too many snow days, she said the team realized that “if we only had a couple more hours on several snow day mornings we could have been ready,” and the whole snow day was not necessary. Quinley said that daylight and  warmer temperatures is needed to help melt the treated parking lots and sidewalks of schools to keep the school area safe. These essential conditions do not generally happen early in the day. The result of these complications soon became the late start days that are now in practice because of winter weather changes.

“Each day and each case is different. Our primary concerns are safe driving and walking surfaces and safe temperatures. We don’t have hard and fast rules as each day’s conditions need to be considered.” — Linda Quinley CPS chief financial and operations officer”

As for who decides if CPS has a late start, she said the decision can be made by the director of transportation, facilities, custodial, the coordinator of safety or the bus company, but essentially the choice is made by the superintendent and Quinley depending on if the call is due to “extreme cold or road and surface conditions.” If the weather is cold or the roads are icy enough for the possibility of a late start, they consider the conditions for that specific day.
“Each day and each case is different. Our primary concerns are safe driving and walking surfaces and safe temperatures. We don’t have hard and fast rules as each day’s conditions need to be considered,” Quinley said. “We send out a driving team of five at 4:00 a.m. to assess conditions if it is a road concern. They have the district divided up into sections and each report to me the findings of their areas, [then] I confer with the Director of Transportation and superintendents of schools in the area [to decide if there will be a late start.]”
Like every new policy like late start, Quinley knows it won’t be perfect for everyone’s situation, but she still takes efforts to make it easier for people who find planning around the late start schedule difficult.
“We do think [late starts] are valuable because they provide for safety first. We know, too, that anytime we call school whether it be a full snow day or a late start, it is an inconvenience for parents, particularly those who need to get to work,” Quinley said. “Students are prioritized in the decision making.  If we can have a late start, we make sure kids who may not get lunch at home have a good lunch; we assure that learning happens and gaps in learning are avoided. We [also try not to ask] parents to miss a full day of work in order to allow some time in the morning for safety.”
Even though the administrative team make efforts to minimize the negative impact late starts may have for some people, for Jacobson, the struggle to keep up in class occurs every time there is a late start.
“I understand that it’s hard to make things [like late start] work perfectly,” Jacobson said, “but no system should cause a student to fall behind other students.”
Despite some student’s and teacher’s hardships caused by late start, Quinley said the administration team is willing to change things to the public’s needs.
“We are learning and we will adapt and modify as we do. Any new process or system has glitches and kinks to work out,” Quinley said. “We are hearing from parents, teachers, leaders and city county officials on what works and does not and we will listen.”
By Grace Vance