Indy schools to open late Monday

Updated: February 3, 2010, 6:15 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Students in Indianapolis Public Schools are allowed to sleep in a bit Monday thanks to a one-hour delay scheduled to give bus drivers more time to get to work the morning after the Super Bowl. But they'll have to make up for half the lost time.

The state's largest school district initially scheduled a two-hour delay but changed course after the Indiana Department of Education said such delays should only be used for emergency situations. State Superintendent Tony Bennett said that because Sunday night's game between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints didn't qualify for an automatic waiver for emergency two-hour delays, missed time would have to be made up.

"While we support the Colts, two-hour delays are reserved for emergency situations," Bennett said.

Instead, school will be delayed by one hour Monday morning and extended by 30 minutes in the afternoon. That will allow the district to meet the requirements for a full day without needing a waiver from the state, IPS Superintendent Eugene White said.

IPS schedules its students for the state minimum of 180 days a year, the state Department of Education said, so it would have been tricky to make up the time on another day.

Catholic schools in Indianapolis have Monday off in honor of the Super Bowl. But the archdiocese has 183 school days scheduled, the department said, so it won't necessarily have to reschedule to make up lost time.

IPS is trying to avoid a repeat of 2007, when the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl and so many bus drivers called in sick the next morning that officials canceled classes. Bus drivers report to work at 5:30 a.m., and the Super Bowl often runs until nearly 11 p.m.

White said bus drivers have told him this year that they will be at work no matter what time school starts Monday. But he said the district decided to be proactive.

"We're just trying to be safe," he said. "The Super Bowl is a big deal."

Some IPS parents complained on news media Web sites that school shouldn't be delayed for a football game. Others said they liked the idea of the delay so their kids could stay up to watch the entire game without being tired the next day.

Parent Maribeth Salkovsky said the delay makes sense if there's a chance that many bus drivers will call off sick on Monday.

"Nobody wants their kids waiting for a bus that isn't coming," Salkovsky said. "It's one night."

Salkovsky, who has an 8-year-old son and a daughter who's almost 6, said she'll let her kids stay up to watch the entire game.

White said the Colts have helped the district -- which has 34,000 students, many of whom live in poverty -- through various programs, including one that provides winter clothes to students.

"IPS is pleased to support the Colts on their quest for the Vince Lombardi Trophy," White said.

The district also plans to waive its dress code Friday so that staff and students may wear jeans, jerseys and other clothing to support the Colts. The district cautioned that clothing must still be appropriate for school, so no ripped jeans or short skirts.

Meanwhile, several private schools in the New Orleans area, as well as Plaquemines Parish public schools, are giving students Monday off because of Super Bowl celebrations that might go late into the night. The Archdiocese of New Orleans left the decision up to its individual Roman Catholic schools: Many will be closed, and some will hold classes but start two hours later than usual.

In Jefferson Parish public schools, students who are absent or late will be marked as such. But Superintendent Diane Roussel said teachers will work with students to make up any missed assignments.

"While the school system supports the Saints and their participation in the Super Bowl, the education of students will remain a top priority," Roussel said.

In Plaquemines, students will make up the day by attending school all day on March 10 and 11. Those are exam days, which had been scheduled as half-days.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press