by Larry Austin
The Grand Island Central School District took the uncommon step Wednesday of delaying the start of the school day two hours to deal with a spell of frigid weather.
With temperatures in the single digits and below-zero wind chills, the district announced Tuesday at 10 p.m. that buses would pick up children two hours later than normal. Dismissal took place at its usual time. Lunches and after-school activities ran as normal.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence said Wednesday that a delay of the start of is "not common in Grand Island," and that the decision to delay was based upon a desire to maintain safety for children with an eye toward meeting the state mandate for 180 days of instruction.
"We took many things into consideration, but delaying by two hours brought us within acceptable ranges of wind chill and weather," Lawrence said. "It was cold, for sure, but it brought us within acceptable ranges."
"We felt a lot more confident that children could safely arrive to school," she said, adding that the move permitted Regents exams to take place at the high school as scheduled, and allowed the district to adhere to the calendar that the Board of Education adopted last February. The district is required to hold 180 student attendance days.
"We are at 180 days right now," Lawrence noted on Jan. 29, adding that if the district falls below the 180-day minimum, it would recoup days from the February recess.
By delaying Wednesday rather than cancelling school altogether, the district could be "effective and efficient, and just smart" Lawrence said in "keeping children safe, allowing students to take their Regents exams ... and preserve the calendar as best as possible."
Feedback from the public included four "not so positive emails," Lawrence said, concerning the lateness of the decision to delay the start of school, which was made at 10 p.m. Tuesday. She said she was "very, very, very thankful for families, guardians, teachers, everyone, to be accommodating."
"I'm a parent of two children. I'm not void of the challenge it is to find coverage. I appreciate that," Lawrence said. "The best decision I can make is make sure they're safe on their arrival here. So we placed the call last night, and it went out to all media stations, and the reason we did that is to give parents, guardians, as much time as we could to make arrangements."