Cumberland Times-News

January 11, 2014

At times we all should allow for a little flex

Mike Burke
Cumberland Times-News

— Other than when I was a student in the Allegany County Public Schools System, I’ve always believed the most thankless job there is — or at least one of the most thankless jobs there is — belongs to the person who ultimately hits the switch on whether or not to call off school because of the weather. You’re slammed if you do, you’re slammed if you don’t. No matter what you decide it’s no win, but, like managing a baseball team or running a bar, everybody knows they could do it.

First, let’s be very clear here. This is not a criticism in any way. Nor is this intended to scoff at anybody’s fear of being hit with a lawsuit (a fear, face it, that we all knowingly or unknowingly live with in this day and age). In fact, congratulations to the Allegany County Board of Education for allowing the games to go on Friday night, even though school had been called off. Once it was clear the weather was not going to be an issue, the games went on, with Allegany and Fort Hill playing to a near-capacity crowd at Campobello. It was a good common-sense call, particularly when you consider how backed-up the winter schedules already are.

Based on the forecast — freezing rain from 11 o’clock Thursday night to 11 o’clock Friday morning — and based on the freezing rain that did fall early Friday morning, there was really no choice in the matter. At the very least, a two-hour delay would be in effect. But when it appeared that would do nothing to alleviate potential traveling hazards, the call was made to call school for the entire day. And then, just like that, we were able to get out and enjoy borderline early-spring conditions for the rest of the afternoon.

Slammed if you do, slammed if you don’t. But ... better safe than sorry.

In taking Friday into account, and, given how weird the weather has already been this winter, it would seem there is a very good chance another day like Friday will come along before the birds finally return north. So the first question I have is, why just a two-hour delay? Why not call a three-hour-delay or a half-day to provide more time to gauge the impending weather conditions?

The second question is, why does school in Allegany County start each day before the roosters are finished their morning coffee? As a 54-year-old man who works nights and who doesn’t sleep nearly as soundly in the morning as he used to once his slumber has been interrupted by nature, I wonder this each dark morning as I hear the buses rumble back and forth outside my window when it’s just around 7 o’clock.

A look at the Allegany County Public Schools website indicates that all county middle schools and high schools get under way anywhere from 7:30 to 7:45 in the morning, while elementary schools start their day in the 8:00-8:15 range, with Flintstone Elementary beginning at 8:45 a.m., officially making it the only school in the county that I would currently be able to attend. Not that anybody asked for my opinion and, obviously, nothing can be done this year, but for future consideration, wouldn’t it make sense to restructure the starting times of each school day during the winter months of the school year?

In the fall and the spring, begin classes in the 7:30 and 8 a.m. ranges if this is deemed so vital to catching the East Asians on the standardized test (and we won’t even go there). But during the winter months, why not bump that back an hour to the 8:30 and 9 a.m. ranges like, oh, I don’t know ... when I was in school?

I’ll bet that would eliminate some snow days, or whatever they’re called now, and, in turn, keep students and teachers from being bottled up in sweltering learning conditions as we near the summer months.

Again, nobody asked me. Just call it wondering out loud. But as we found out Friday night, wondering out loud and at least looking at something with a little common sense and flexibility can, from time to time, work out pretty well.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com