Changing Haven’s weather policy splits board
March 04. 2014 2:20PM
A push to keep the Dell Rapids Community Haven open during inclement weather drew criticism from a school board member last week.
When school is canceled, let out early or there is a late start, the Haven also keeps its doors closed.
Dell Rapids superintendent Summer Schultz told the Dell Rapids School Board at its meeting Feb. 24 that the existing closure policy is burdensome to many parents who use the non-profit before and after school. Most of the complaints she receives about decisions to start school late or let out early, she said, come from Haven parents who work out of town and can’t get home on short notice.
“Some parents can’t get off work,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of feedback that it would be nice if Haven would be open normal hours during an early out or late start.”
Chad Andrews, a city councilor who has a daughter who goes to Haven, said the existing policy creates headaches for his family.
“Both me and my wife work in Sioux Falls, and all of our friends work in Sioux Falls, too,” he said. “When we close early, my wife has to try and get off work, or I have to come up, pick my daughter up and then head back to Sioux Falls to finish up my day. So it makes it hazardous for other people who are out on the road.”
At the urging of the Haven board, Schultz recommended the school board OK a new policy allowing the Haven to stay open when school is let out early and starts late. Haven would remain closed when a full day of school is canceled.
But school board member Matt Weiland said the proposed policy change could leave Haven in a tight spot if and when a weather event goes from bad to worse in a short period of time.
If school lets out early and the Haven stays open and weather conditions worsen, children could end up stuck at the Haven facility in the old elementary school.
“Once they are here, they are our responsibility,” Weiland said. “There might be a risk that sometime somebody is going to have to spend the night at the school.”
Ultimately, any decision to remain open during inclement weather would come from Haven Director Jessica Ostwald.
“They don’t have to stay open. If it’s going to be real inclement weather, and we want to close the whole thing down, we have that ability to do so,” said Tom Morris, school board president. “It’s for those times when it’s a late start or early dismissal and it’s not bad in town but the country roads are bad. It gives them that flexibility so they can stay open and be there so that those kids don’t have to go home alone.”
The motion to approve the new policy passed with 4-1 support. Weiland voted nay.