To Tame Weather’s Bite, District Adopts Late Start Schedule

Two-hour delay for students, but faculty, staff to report at usual time


Will McKnight

At Shaker Heights High School, students from varied backgrounds can access the same opportunities. But that’s only if we execute our ideas and policies correctly.

Shaker has become one of few school districts in Cuyahoga County to institute a delayed start protocol for inclement weather or other dangerous conditions.

The administration developed the protocol “because we have lost a great deal of instructional time already this year,” Director of Communications Peggy Caldwell said. “It really is in the interest of trying to preserve instructional time.”

A delayed start would only be used when appropriate. “There will still be times when a full day closing is the only option,” Caldwell said.

Besides Shaker, the Chagrin Falls school district also has a two-hour delayed start system. Although they have used it because of weather conditions in the past, Chagrin Falls has only used the procedure for professional development days this year.

The schedule, posted on Shaker’s website, is complex, with different starting and ending times for K-4 schools, Woodbury Elementary School, Shaker Middle School and the high school. Because it is a two-hour delayed opening procedure, classes will start at 10:05 a.m. at the high school, even on Tuesdays; K-4 schools will start at 11:05 a.m. Schools will end at their usual times.

Class schedules are “something to be worked out internally” within each school, Caldwell said.

This is the latest version of the high school's two-hour delayed start schedule, sent by Principal Michael Griffith to faculty Feb. 27.
Principal Michael Griffith sent this document, the latest version of the high school’s delayed start schedule, to faculty Feb. 27.

Principal Michael Griffith has sent three different versions of the high school’s two-hour delayed start schedule to faculty. The first, sent at 8:25 p.m. Feb. 26, included a typo, which the second version remedied. In these two schedules, periods one, two, three, nine and ten were each 27 minutes long; periods five and seven were each 16 minutes long; and periods four, six and eight were 30 minutes long.

The third version of the schedule is very different. According to this schedule, sent to faculty at 5:41 p.m. Feb. 27, late start days will not have normal lunch periods. Instead, lunch will start the school day, lasting from 10:00 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. After lunch, each period will be 31 minutes long besides period two, which will be 33 minutes long.

Although Griffith’s new schedule has school beginning at 10:00 a.m., Shaker’s district-wide schedule states high school classes will begin at 10:05 a.m.

In his email, Griffith said the new schedule “was designed after conversation with John Morris, Department Chairs and Faculty Senate.” At the time of publication, Griffith could not be reached for comment.

“I think it’s a good compromise because I think it helps us stay a little safer,” junior Arpit Agrawal said of the procedure. “We get more sleep, but it also keeps teachers and students less stressed, especially students with AP deadlines and other commitments.”

Junior Ashley Weeks agreed, saying “it’s good for the elementary kids and walkers,” but said she might feel uncomfortable “adjusting to two extra hours.” She expressed concern over parents who drive their children to school and how they would rearrange their schedules accordingly.

The procedure also includes protocol for non-public school students, child care centers and faculty and support staff, among other categories. On delayed start days, lunch will be “served on normal schedule,” according to the document posted at Before- and after-school child care will operate normally as well, as will other after-school activities, including conference period. However, breakfast provided by the school district and field trips will be canceled. Breakfast will be provided at before-school care operated by Shaker Recreation.

Faculty and support staff members will be expected to arrive at school at the usual time.

“Bad roads still affect us,” a high school teacher, who requested anonymity, said. The teacher considers a late-start system “a good idea,” but has concerns about “the fact that the teachers have to be there on time, parents have to figure out how to get kids to school. . . . I’m curious to see how many kids still come to school.”

Caldwell said a “huge internal team” developed the procedure, including Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., officials from the transportation department, school principals and AVI Foodsystems, which provides Shaker’s lunches.

“The major concern is that there will be families, before they’re familiar with it [the delayed start schedule], that might send their children off to school even though it’s not quite time for it yet,” Caldwell said.

For that and other reasons, the delayed start procedure “cannot be put into effect immediately. It’ll be about a week before we start putting it into effect,” Caldwell said. “We want to make sure everybody is fully aware of all the details before we use the new protocol.”

A Beachwood City Schools spokesperson said the district does not have and does not plan on implementing a late-start policy for dangerous weather.

A Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District spokesperson reached for comment said she could not speak on the subject.

“We’ll be interested in feedback” about the late start if one occurs, Caldwell said. However, she added, “we’re going to see how it goes and hope we don’t have to use it.”

Staff reporters Audie Lorenzo, Anabel McGuan, Sara Mesiano, Nora Spadoni and Ned Weingart contributed reporting.

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