Pasco wildfire forces later school day

Later dismissal causing conflicts
Posted at 5:08 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-15 09:15:19-04

UPDATE | River Ridge Middle and High schools will return to 7:30 a.m. to 1:55 p.m. bell schedule beginning Tuesday.

UPDATE | Pasco County Schools and Pasco County Emergency Management staff decided today to continue the late start time for River Ridge Middle and High schools on Monday, May 15.

The decision was based on conditions this morning and uncertainty about whether rain this weekend will impact smoke. District leaders and the county emergency operations staff have scheduled a conference call on Monday morning to determine whether it will be safe to resume the regular bell schedule starting Tuesday. 

“We hope we will be able to resume the regular schedule beginning on Tuesday, but the weather forecast will dictate what we do moving forward,” said Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning.

River Ridge Middle and River Ridge High schools have operated on a 10:45 a.m. to 5:10 p.m. schedule since last Tuesday, after the schools were forced to close Monday when heavy smoke from the Starkey Park wildfire permeated classrooms Monday morning.

ORIGINAL STORY |  River Ridge sophomore Sean Riley is losing money this week he really needs.

“I got to pay car insurance back to mom and all,” he said.

Riley had some car detailing jobs lined up after school.

“I would normally go there around three and get started.”

But he’ll have to cancel because of the effects of a nearby wildfire.

RELATED: Nearly 2,300-acre wildfire in Starkey Park in west Pasco County 75% contained

Smoke made visibility difficult Monday morning as students showed up at River Ridge middle and high school.

They were quickly sent home.

That’s what led to the district deciding to start school here the rest of the week at 10:45 a.m.

Tuesday the air was clear.

“I can actually see across the street,” said sophomore Wade Danielson.

And students well rested.

“I like waking up at 9,” said senior Kaitlyn Waitword.

“The students arrived; everybody was in a great mood. I think the extra sleep helped,” said principal Toni Zetsche.

But it’s a 5:10 p.m. dismissal that is causing some problems for those with after school activities like sports and jobs.

“If they made doctors appointments or made commitments with work, we asked them to try and work it out with their employers. But we are trying to remain flexible,” said Zetsche.

The district plans to stick with the altered start time the rest of the week, which happens to also include final exams for seniors.

Then they’ll reevaluate. 

Fire officials said smoke could be an issue in low lying areas for more than a month.