MOUNT VERNON — Ohio weather is unpredictable and sometimes treacherous, and, to ensure student safety, school districts often have to make judgment calls about closing schools or delaying the start of the school day. Due to high winds in September, and snowy, cold and icy road conditions in December and January, Mount Vernon elementary schools have nearly exceeded the number of excused calamity days allowed by state law, and some snow days will have to be made up.
Morning kindergarten classes have been hardest hit, because they have been canceled even when other classes convened on a two-hour delay.
Twin Oak morning kindergarten has been out of session eight times, Pleasant Street 10 times. Part of that time will need to be made up. In order to avoid having to make up even more days, the district is implementing a Kindergarten Plan B for those days the Mount Vernon school district operates on a two-hour delay.
The new plan will go into effect Monday. Whenever a two-hour delay has been announced, morning kindergartners will attend school from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and afternoon kindergartners will attend from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. That means buses will pick up morning kindergartners at their homes about two hours later than the regular time; afternoon kindergartners will be picked up approximately one hour later than usual.
Extended kindergarten classes will be canceled. Pupils participating in extended-day kindergarten will report only to their regular half-day kindergarten class on a Plan B day. The extended-day kindergarten teacher will work with those students within the regular class.
“It’s all about the safety of the kids,” said Twin Oak Principal Sue Miller. “We do the two-hour delays because of the safety. Usually by 11 o’clock we can see, and we can tell what roads have been cleared.”
The delays are about the safety of the pupils, but morning kindergartners are missing out on valuable instructional time, and it’s been hard on the kindergarten teachers.
“I’m looking forward to this new plan,” said Heidi Craigo, Twin Oak kindergarten teacher, “because so many days are missed with kindergartners that consistency [in instruction and routine] is gone and you start over again. Even if we have a little bit of time under Plan B, just to get the basics done each day, we’re not missing out on that consistency. ... For instance, last week I saw my morning class two days.”
Columbia Elementary Principal Pam Rose said the regular plan — canceling morning kindergarten when there’s a two-hour school delay — also makes it hard to keep morning and afternoon kindergarten classes the same.
“When I taught kindergarten,” she said, “we didn’t do anything like this. Your afternoon class would be four days ahead of the morning class. It makes it really tough.”
Also, Rose added, pupils need a routine, and cancellations disrupt that routine.
It’s also not helpful to make up all those days all at once, Craigo said.
“We tried last year, and it’s not genuine get-stuff-done kind of days because it’s all at once and it’s in May,” she said.
“We know that for some parents,” Miller said, “Plan B may be as difficult because of their day care or child care situations. We’re going to try to work with them.”
Each building principal has sent letters out to all parents of kindergartners, explaining Kindergarten Plan B as it pertains to their building. Contact information is provided in case parents have questions. Craigo said she and some of the kindergarten teachers are also planning to contact parents affected by the change. Parents should note that there will be slight differences in the letters, in accordance with which school their child attends.
When a news outlet announces that Mount Vernon is on a two-hour delay, it should also specify Plan B kindergarten, Miller said.