Many schools started late
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Worried about potentially high rates of absenteeism -- among students and staff -- following a Steelers victory at the Super Bowl, a number of local school districts yesterday called for a two-hour delay for the start of classes.
"We thought a delay would have less impact than sticking to a normal schedule because of the information coming back to us," said Teresita Kolenchak, a spokeswoman for Penn Hills School District.
For Pittsburgh Public Schools, the delay was announced last week for "safety" reasons.
Yesterday, district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said it was to ensure students weren't waiting at their bus stops for drivers who might be late or absent and to "help the day run smoothly."
"We wanted to avoid the higher rates of absenteeism," she said. "We had some parents who weren't happy with it."
The district's parent hot line received 88 complaints. But Ms. Pugh believes the complaints were more an accumulation after several non-ordinary days rather than just because of the Super Bowl delay.
Last week for city schools, Monday and Tuesday were in-service days, so there were no classes. Wednesday, school was canceled because of the weather, and on Thursday, there was a two-hour delay, again, because of the weather.
"I think it just got to be a lot," she said.
At Center Area School District in Beaver County, the two-hour delay meant secondary students, who generally have to get up before 6:30 a.m. for school that starts at 7:25, attended all of their classes, just in abbreviated sessions, said Superintendent Dan Matsook.
"Rather than them trickling in, they were able to get all of their classes in. You'll have some people concerned about the message you're sending. A lot of people say, 'Oh, you're making football more important than school.' But what we're actually doing is making a practical call," Mr. Matsook said. "In talking to the high-school principal, tardiness was probably one of the lowest marks we had all year."
For the staff, absenteeism wasn't a factor.
"They're adults," Mr. Matsook said. "You get up and go to work."
Like at Center Area, the Moon Area School District delay also was designed to benefit the students, said Amanda Hartle, a spokeswoman there.
"Our high school reported positive feedback with the specter of what could have been high absenteeism," she said. "Generally, overall, it was a good decision for us."
Unlike Pittsburgh, the other districts did not get a lot of phone calls or complaints on the delay, though Ms. Kolenchak noted that Penn Hills has a school board meeting tonight.
None of the school districts contacted for this story planned any delay or cancellation for today's victory parade.
First Published February 3, 2009 12:00 am