Students in some metro school districts may need to conjure some extra strong voodoo to win a snow day this winter.
Several districts and Omaha Archdiocese schools will consider delaying the start of the school day instead of just canceling classes.
That's a break from the way metro schools typically handled storms in recent years.
At most districts, snow days have been an all-or-nothing proposition: School has either been in session or called off.
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But after a brutal winter last year, when districts piled up more snow days than normal, several are adding late starts as an option.
Starting later would give crews more time to clear streets, sidewalks and parking lots, and it would allow rush-hour traffic to subside, officials say.
Late starts won't take such a big bite out of instructional time. Lost time must be made up if a school loses too much time and falls below the state minimums.
The Omaha, Millard, Elkhorn, Papillion La Vista, Springfield Platteview and Westside districts will all consider late starts.
Ralston and Douglas County West have not used late starts, but officials in those districts are discussing the possibility.
Late starts have been an option in Bennington for many years.
Gretna will not use late starts — they will either cancel or not.
Superintendent Jim Beran said he wants to keep the district’s snow day procedure straightforward for parents.
“If you tell them it’s a late start, and then the weather turns, are you going to turn it into an all-day affair?” he said.
Bellevue Public Schools also will keep things simple and not do late starts, unless extraordinary circumstances arise, Superintendent Jeff Rippe said.
The possibility of late starts could get a frosty reception from students, who covet cancellations. Snow days can turn into a day of sledding, building snowmen or just lounging at home.
Snow days are so eagerly anticipated that students have invented rituals to conjure up storms: dumping ice cubes in the toilet, turning one's pajamas inside out, singing the ABCs into the freezer.
On social media, they pepper superintendents with appeals to cancel.
Their spells apparently worked overtime last year. Snow days piled up from the wild weather: cold, snow, floods.
During February, Millard students attended school only 14 days because of a combination of snow cancellations and parent-teacher conferences. By March, most metro school districts had canceled school four or five days for weather. Millard students had to continue classes after Memorial Day, a situation the district tries to avoid.
The multiple snow days were “incredibly disruptive” to the educational flow and to working families, said Millard Superintendent Jim Sutfin.
On some of the snow days last year, the weather turned out less menacing than predicted, and the schools could have stayed in session, he said.
Sutfin will now have three options when weather makes roads and sidewalks unsafe: cancel school, delay the start or declare an e-learning day.
The district experimented with e-learning days last year.
On those days, students stay home but do schoolwork via technology, digital tools and other resources. The idea is to minimize disruptions to the learning process and keep kids on track.
Delayed starts will be new for Archdiocese of Omaha schools, said spokesperson Blair Bonczynski.
The Catholic schools will follow the lead of OPS regarding delays and closures, she said.
The Council Bluffs Community Schools will consider a two-hour late start when appropriate, spokeswoman Diane Ostrowski said. The district has not had late starts in recent years, she said.