Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 7, 2013

Eastern mulls three-hour school delays

Superintendent says it could cut down on the number of school cancellations

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Recent foggy weather in the area has prompted officials at Eastern Howard School Corp. to consider moving to a three-hour delay schedule.

If the district makes the change, officials would have the option of delaying school three hours during inclement weather. To meet state standards, dismissal on those days would be delayed an hour to about 4 p.m., Superintendent Tracy Caddell said.

“More than anything else, it’s about safety,” he said.

That extra hour would mean more daylight when bus drivers and students are driving to school in fog or snow. They’d be able to see the road and road conditions better. It would also give the county more time to clear roads following snowfall.

Caddell said ultimately, the three-hour delays could cut down on the number of times per year the district has to cancel school for bad weather.

There have been times that Eastern canceled school only to find that weather or road conditions improved dramatically by 11 a.m., he said.

The proposal was modeled after Jay County’s policy.

Jay School Corporation Superintendent Tim Long said his district has been using three-hour delays for about three years now. He hasn’t heard any complaints about it in at least two years.

“In my estimation, it’s been a good thing,” he said. “It’s been widely accepted here.”

His district is the only one in the county, and it takes 55 minutes to get from one corner of the district to the other. As a result, it takes a long time for fog to lift, he said.

“When the fog is clearing, a two-hour delay is never enough,” he said.

The district has already benefited from the change.

The year before the district implemented the three-hour delay, school was canceled 16 times because of the snow. Since then, the district hasn’t canceled school more than five times in a year, Long said.

Eastern hasn’t decided yet if it will make the switch. Caddell said he will likely make a decision in about a week.

Right now, the superintendent is encouraging parents, staff members and students to fill out a survey to offer their opinion on the three-hour delay.

Staff members are split on the switch. Many parents seem to like the idea.

Caddell said 108 parents took the survey by Thursday morning. Of them, 63 percent said they supported the change.

“The downside I’m hearing from staff and parents is childcare issues,” he said.

Some are also worried it will interfere with sports and other after-school activities.

Long said the new schedule hasn’t interfered with athletics and activities in Jay County. Caddell said he will check to see if the proposed delay would fit in Eastern’s schedule.

One woman posted on Eastern’s Facebook page that she wishes other schools would try the plan out.

“Wish my nieces school would consider three-hour delays,” she wrote. “Anything but canceling is better. Education comes before sports and after-school activities.”

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com.