Closing school doesn’t always have to be because of impassable roadways. The sidewalks where children wait for school buses also are important.
Schools closed again Wednesday after another layer of thick snow fell on the Illinois Valley. The one-two punch from this weekend and yesterday combined with snow plows creating big snow piles along places that normally serve as school bus stops was enough for La Salle superintendent Dan Marenda and many others to close school again.
“The problem is it interrupts the flow of education … (but) safety is the primary concern,” Marenda said.
For many school districts like La Salle, Wednesday’s closing marks at least the fifth time this year school has been called off due to inclement weather.
La Salle County Regional Office of Education assistant superintendent Christina Dougherty said districts build five emergency dates into their proposed calendar. Oftentimes, the dates are tacked on to the end of the school year.
If a district superintendent calls off school due to extreme weather conditions, those dates must be made up using the emergency dates.
However, once those five emergency days are used, a district must submit a request for approval by the regional office of education to use an “act of God day” that is not required to be made up.
Spring Valley Elementary
For example, Wednesday was Spring Valley Elementary school district’s sixth day off due to snow or cold weather.
Superintendent Jim Hermes said the day qualifies as an “act of God Day” and might not need to be made up by schools. Illinois Board of Education will make that decision.
“I don’t think we are going to make it up,” he said.
But the previous five days off have already pushed back the last day of school to June 5.
Hermes said if the school made up any snow days after the first five, school code said schools would have to pay teachers their daily rate to make up the days.
Peru Elementary School District used its fifth snow day cancellation on Wednesday, superintendent Mark Cross said.
“That’s very unusual,” Cross said. “In my nine years at Peru we’ve never used more than three.”
Each year the district schedules five extra days at the end of its calendar in May to allow for reserve/emergency cancellations, as outlined by the state.
When winter weather brings cancellations, the district adds school days at the end of the calendar so students get 180 days of school for the year, Cross said.
Waltham Elementary has used all five emergency days, and the last day of class is now Monday, June 2.
But superintendent Larry Carlton said students and parents need not worry about the calendar being extended or vacations being truncated.
“Every day we miss now, as we did (Wednesday), is considered an act of God day, and we don’t make that up,” he said.
Additional snow days would create issues with regard to the compensation of certified staff, he noted, but the attendance calendar would be unaffected.
Hall High School
Hall High School also has canceled school six days due to inclement weather and plans to declare the sixth as an act of God day and not make it up. The other five days will be made up May 27, 28, 29 and 30 for student attendance and June 2 as a teacher institute.
“The inclement weather has not, at this point, delayed the construction project,” said superintendent Mike Struna.
Site work and ground leveling for the project was completed prior to Feb. 1. Phase two of the project, which includes excavation and laying footings is due to start soon.
“If the weather cooperates, and the ground thaws, phase two will begin in mid-February,” Struna said.
Oglesby Elementary superintendent Michael Pillion said the district has used all five of its snow days.
Earlier this school year, the district set aside five emergency days at the end of the school year as emergency snow days if needed. That means the last day of school is now June 6.
La Salle-Peru Township High School has had six weather-related cancellations this year, with five “emergency days” allotted for the year.
Superintendent Steven Wrobleski said he will submit a request to the regional office of education to consider Wednesday’s closing an “act of God” day. If that request is approved, Wednesday’s loss will not have to be made up.
The cancellation will not affect state funding, Wrobleski said, because that is based on daily attendance.
Five make-up days will be added onto the end of the school year, with the last day scheduled for June 2.
The revised schedule will also push back the planned restoration work on the organ in the auditorium, because the students should be out of school before that project is begun, Wrobleski said.
“I’m not going to shorten spring break or take away any holidays, because some families have already planned things,” he said. “I will be glad when winter is over.”
Reporters Kevin Caufield, Alicia LeGrand-Riniker, Jeff Dankert, Rachel Stella and Tom Collins contributed to this report.