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Perham-Dent schools update late start policy

The Perham-Dent School District has updated its policy for late starts.

Since 2008, parents had been able to drop off their students at the normal school start time, even if school was starting late due to bad weather or other circumstances, and high school students could drive in on their own.

In addition, staff members were expected to arrive at the schools as close to the normal start time as possible, and classes ran on the normal schedule once the school day got underway.

Now, if a two-hour late start is now announced, parents should not drop their children off, and high school students should not drive in, until the later start time. Buses will pick students up two hours after the normal time and the buildings will open two hours later, as well.

At the December school board meeting, Superintendent Mitch Anderson explained that the 2008 policy created issues, especially at times when a late start was used to determine if the weather would improve, or if school should be closed for the day.

“It prevents me from being able to close for the day,” said Anderson. “By that time, we have 40 or 50 kids potentially in the building. If we close, where are they going to go?”

He also referred to a late start last school year during which buses were late, but classes were still held on time.

“I got a bunch of emails from juniors and seniors that were taking AP courses first block, and they don’t want to miss that class,” said Anderson. “They questioned why we would say it’s OK for buses to stay back two hours, but they are expected to be there and in class.”

Board member Sue VonRuden noted that most other schools in the area have an across-the-board late start policy.

Another board member, Sue Huebsch, said she thinks that (starting everything late) is much less confusing.

“I really don’t want to accidentally send the message to our high schoolers that they need to be driving in … when we’re letting the buses come late,” Huebsch added.

This change is effective immediately.