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Delays are safety issue

W.Va. to start schools 2 hours late; Md., Pa. to wait and see

W.Va. to start schools 2 hours late; Md., Pa. to wait and see

February 06, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

TRI-STATE - Several school systems in the Tri-State area delayed the start of classes for two hours Monday morning when wind chill temperatures plunged near zero.

Washington County Public Schools opened on time.

Carol Mowen, the system's spokeswoman, said Superintendent Elizabeth M. Morgan decided against delaying the start of school because the weather forecast wasn't expected to change significantly between the time classes normally begin and the time the two-hour delay would have ended.

"We will continue to monitor the weather conditions," she said. "Student safety is of the utmost importance."

Mowen said the superintendent usually makes the decision to delay or cancel classes by 5:15 a.m. - about 45 minutes before school buses start hitting the roads.

Buses start picking up students at about 6:10 a.m., she said.

Steven Nichols, superintendent of Jefferson County (W.Va.) Schools in West Virginia, said he decided to impose a two-hour delay Monday morning after information from the National Weather Service said that the wind chill temperature would approach zero degrees.

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"I'm not going to have kids stand out in the cold and the dark waiting on a bus," he said.

The frigid forecast for the remainder of the week prompted him to make an early decision to delay classes for two hours again today and Wednesday, Nichols said. The early announcement should help working parents make child-care arrangements for students who otherwise would be in school, he said.

Buses in Jefferson County typically start running at about 5:30 a.m., Nichols said.

A particular concern for school administrators during the winter is protecting children at Ranson (W.Va.) Elementary School, where all students have to walk, he said.

Nichols said it would be irresponsible to let students at Ranson Elementary walk to school on dangerously cold days.

Berkeley County (W.Va.) Schools officials usually take notice concerning school delays or closings once the temperature dips into the single digits, said Frank Aliveto, the district's deputy superintendent. It's almost a sure bet that the administration will tell students to stay at home if the temperature reaches or falls below zero, he said.

Aliveto said classes were delayed for two hours Monday, and they'll be delayed for two hours today.

"From Wednesday on, we'll just take it day by day," he said.

Aliveto said Berkeley County Schools usually advertises its decision to delay or cancel classes on radio and television stations that serve the district.

P. Duff Rearick, superintendent of the Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) School District, said he delayed classes for two hours Monday to let the buildings heat back up after the thermostats were turned back over the weekend to save money.

In addition, classes were delayed so buses that sat outside in the cold Saturday and Sunday could have a chance to warm up, he said.

Rearick said he plans to decide on future delays when the time comes.

Caroline Dean, business manager of the Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District, said school officials conferred with borough and township officials before making a decision Monday to delay classes.

"It's a call based on the safety of the children," she said.

The Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District expects to start classes on time today, despite having a two-hour delay Monday, Superintendent Joseph Padasak said.

Padasak said he mainly evaluates the wind chill factor before making a decision to cancel or delay classes.

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