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“I hope we have a snow day tomorrow. I hope we have a snow day tomorrow. I hope … “

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This winter, children in the North Kansas City School District who go to bed chanting “I hope we have a snow day tomorrow” may not have as many of their wishes granted.

Late last week, district administration notified parents of a new plan allowing schools to start two hours late on days when weather threatens to make early morning travel unsafe. Until now, the district’s only options were to hold school, release early or cancel altogether.

Severe weather last winter caused the district to make up for the snow days by extending the school year well into June, which disrupted high school graduation and the summer school schedule as well as family vacation plans.

NKC is not the first district in the Kansas City metropolitan area to institute a delayed start option. However, it is one of only a handful of districts to do so.

The North Kansas City School District’s Board of Education heard a report of the delayed-start plan during their meeting Tuesday, Nov. 8. According to Dan Clemons, the assistant superintendent in charge of administrative services, his staff realized a two-hour delayed start — which allows temperatures to warm up a bit and more time for streets to be cleared — would have prevented snow days at least twice last year. In particular, the new policy may cut down on the number of times the district cancels school on the second day following a snowstorm.

Benefits of a delayed start on cold, snowy days — according to Clemons’ report to the NKC school board  — include:

  • More time for roads to be cleared
  • Daylight (for buses and for student drivers as well as walkers)
  • Lighter vehicle traffic on roads after rush hour
  • Young students are supervised (and continuing their studies). Often young students are left unsupervised all day at home as many parents cannot miss work for a full day.
  • Students are ensured a full meal at school.

Deciding to institute a delayed-start policy takes much planning by district staff. According to Clemons, he had to coordinate principals at 30 different schools as well as staff in the administrative offices, food service, transportation, maintenance and school-age child care departments.

Besides North Kansas City, less than a third of districts in the metropolitan area use a delayed-start option. Other local districts that do so include the Blue Valley and De Soto school districts in Kansas as well as the Center, Grandview C-4, Hickman Mills, Lee’s Summit and Raymore-Peculiar districts in Missouri.

For details on the district’s new delayed start plan, see their blog post: http://nkcschools.blogspot.com/

Earlier this fall, the KC Education Enterprise published a story about predictions of another hard winter this year in the Midwestern United States: http://tinyurl.com/6vgrud5

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About jwmartinez

JoLynne is a journalist and educator. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Park University and is certified to teach high school journalism and English. Former employment includes work for Cable News Network and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in addition to freelancing for clients such as the Kansas City Star and The Pitch.

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