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Late Start Logic

December 9, 2009, 4:55 PM by Perry Groten

Late Start Logic
The snow and cold prompted the Sioux Falls school district to declare a late start, something the district hasn't done in three-and-a-half years.

The last late start in Sioux Falls was way back on March 13, 2006.

Administrators typically check with several sources, including the weather service and bus companies. Their top consideration is whether bus routes have been properly cleared. They try to reach a decision by 5 a.m., to give parents plenty of lead time on getting their kids to school.

Some parents dropping off their kids at Whittier Middle School needed every available second of the late start to dig out of their plowed-in driveways.

"I live alone with my son and I don't have nobody to help me and that's why I am late today," Gloria Mendez said.

But the late start not only helps snowed-in families, it eases the morning commute for everyone else.

"By starting an hour late, we take a lot of our school traffic out of the work rush hour traffic. It also gives cars a chance to get on the streets to pack them down a little bit because we know those side streets aren't going to get plowed for a while yet," Bill Smith of the Sioux Falls School District said.

Students, who enjoyed an extra hour's sleep, have to learn more in less time.

Whittier Middle School officials say a one-hour late start is much easier to deal with than a 2-hour late start. Each class is shortened down to 33 minutes and they can still get their lunch period in without having to re-arrange the order of periods.

Despite gaining an extra hour, 55 Whittier students couldn't make it to school; that's 25 more absences than average. The district says the late start was the right decision to make to ensure the safety of all students.

"We're making a decision that we know impacts 60,000 people or more, so we don't take that lightly," Smith said.

The last time the Sioux Falls school district called off school because of the weather was March first and second, 2007. Rarer still are two-hour late starts for Sioux Falls, which are more common in rural districts that bus kids on country roads.

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