Recent snow days, disruptive weather, raise questions about districts late start schedule


Infographic by Laaiba Mahmood

“A quick answer as to why haven’t we used it before is because the circumstances and conditions [of the weather] have not improved enough to make it safe for school [in the morning],” Superintendent Dan Bridges said.

Noelle Schwarz, News Editor

During the month of January, District 203 was closed down three days due to inclement weather. As the harsh weather continued, students grew frustrated waiting for buses in the cold, their cars sliding through the parking lot. The question arose: “Why doesn’t District 203 use the late start-snow delay schedule?”

The late start-snow delay schedule has not been implemented in the seven years it has existed. In this schedule, high school starts at 9:30 a.m. All classes are 37 minutes except second hour, which is 39 minutes, with six-minute passing periods.

“In theory, I think it’s a great schedule,” said Carrie McFadden, assistant principal for operations. “I’m surprised we haven’t used it ever. Sometimes it’s just tricky. Like [Jan. 30] didn’t turn out to be as it was predicted to be.”

The late start-snow delay schedule allows for 203 schools to make sure students are not injured in the weather while still getting a day’s worth of education.

“This is in place to really eliminate those situations where you know there’s enough snow to cover the roads and make it dangerous first thing in the morning, but with a little extra time being declared it [becomes] easier to drive to school,” said Dan Bridges, Superintendent of District 203 schools.

Part of Bridges’ job is to look at the weather and decide if it meets the criteria for canceling school or putting the late start schedule in place.

“After consulting with the city of Naperville, other surrounding municipalities, the county [and] the District 203 Buildings and Grounds department, I have to make a decision whether or not to do a late start or to cancel school,” Bridges said. “[During the last snow day] conditions would not have improved enough within that two hour timeframe.”

The superintendent must announce school cancellations or delayed starts before 5:30 a.m.

“From a parent perspective, with littler kids to have school canceled in the morning is difficult because what am I going to do with the children now?” McFadden said. “When you hear that at 5:30 in the morning and you’re supposed to be at work at 8 o’clock in the morning.”

Often times, Bridges tries to make the calls the night before, but this can lead to wasting snow days when the weather is inaccurately predicted.

“There was one [snow day where I thought] this isn’t that bad,” McFadden said. “It’s it is not an easy decision. I am very thankful that I have no part in the decision because you’re going to make people and people happy or unhappy [no matter if you cancel school or not].”

Due to the fact that severe weather conditions recently have not changed between 7:45 and 9:30 a.m., Bridges has not yet been able to put the schedule in place.

“A quick answer as to why haven’t we used it before is because the circumstances and conditions [of the weather] have not improved enough to make it safe for school [in the morning],” Bridges said.

However, the schedule does give District 203 the ability to still have school on days where the weather is severe at night or in the early morning.

“I absolutely think there is value to it because it allows us to be prepared,” Bridges said. “A couple of weeks ago when we had the Wednesday and Thursday off because of the cold, there were some districts that were considering cancelling Friday because of the cold as well. The temperature forecasts showed that it was going to improve in the morning hours. So for me, I had the flexibility to think, okay, if it is too cold, you know first thing in the morning we have the flexibility to be able to do a late start.”

In the future, McFadden hopes to have the chance to test out the schedule.

“I’d just like to try it sometime,” McFadden said “If it’s safe to get here and the roads are clear then I’d rather be here than make them up. Nobody wants to keep adding days on the end of the year.”