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Benilde-St. Margaret's School
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The physics of “calling it”

What determines an online school day versus a late start?

Matt McGonigle

By Kayla Farrey, Benilde-St. Margaret's School

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It is no secret that second semester has begun with a rocky start. Due to the polar vortex, dangerous temperatures, and horrid road conditions, BSM has enacted three online school days and two late starts within two weeks.

From an outsider’s perspective, three days may seem like a ridiculous amount of days off, but BSM actually withstood a few times while other schools closed. For example, on Monday, January 28 and Friday, February 8, BSM choose a two-hour late start while numerous other schools completely shut down for the day.

Senior High Principal Dr. Susan Skinner is the ultimate decision maker for any online or late start school days. On these days, an automated voice message and an email are sent out to inform students and parents. Cancellations can also be found on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.

When there is a possibility of missing school because of weather, many students tend to jump to social media in order to try and influence Skinner’s decision making process. “My followers always seem to increase when the weather gets bad, which I think is funny. I look at all of [the student weather tweets]; I don’t always answer back,” Skinner said.

The process behind cancellations and delays has no strict rulebook. “We always look at weather conditions and predictions. We prefer that school is in session, starting at the regular time. The decision to delay the start or to do online school is based on the conditions in the morning. If we see the conditions are going to improve significantly before 9:00 or 10:00 we would do a late start. If conditions are predicted to not improve at all during the day, then we would go to online school,” Skinner said.

With the drastic variations between windchill and snow accumulation on a daily basis, it can be difficult to make a solid decision on whether or not school should be in session. “The sooner the better. If we are able to call it the night before, we do that. Sometimes, we have to wait till the morning to see what the current conditions are. For example, those cold windchill days,” Skinner said.

In a Knight Errant poll of 568 senior high students and faculty, 74.6% prefer online school days to late starts. “I think online school days are all around better for the students. Many students, myself included, feel that those of us with long commutes aren’t any safer in many cases when school is delayed. Just because we are not physically in the building does not mean that the day is wasted. As a student, I would way rather be warm and safe while I learn than freeze on my way to school and fall on my face in the parking lot just so I can sit in classrooms for 25 minutes each while we kill time and anticipate a dangerous ride home,” senior Audrey Dickson said.

For the 25.4% of those surveyed who favor late starts, they cite reasons such as shorter classes, less homework, and still being able to see friends. “Online school takes almost the whole day. In each class, I have around an hour or so and other homework besides that. The two-hour late start is a lot more relaxed and nice because you can still see friends. Although, I can see how an online school day can be safer for people who do live far away especially when it is icy,” sophomore Peyton Murphy said.

This story was originally published on Knight Errant on February 22, 2019.

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