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Trinity Catholic eighth-graders Krystal Daniels (left) and Hannah Gerber read from the Bible during Deb Myers’ religion class Wednesday morning in La Salle. Area schools are running out of snow days and one of the consequences is students not only are falling behind in classroom instruction. Students typically are more focused and attentive in the winter months than during springtime, which will make the lost classroom time doubly hard to make up later.
Michael Bland, 18, of Oglesby is working on a welding certificate at Illinois Valley Community College. It usually takes two years, but he’s doing it in one. Every session he misses has to be made up.
That’s been a problem lately. Class has been canceled four times and Bland has a part-time job that competes with the hours allocated for study. Making time for both is turning into a juggling act.
“To work around that with my job schedule is tough,” he said.
School officials, too, have a weather-related problem they need to work around: They’re running out of snow days.
A bone-chilling combination of snow, wind and subzero temperatures forced all schools to cancel Jan. 6-7 and Jan. 27-28. Most, though not all, canceled on Jan. 23. Coupled with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and students have missed six days in the four weeks since returning from Christmas vacation.
Schools typically allot five emergency days for weather and most local schools have either depleted them or are perilously close. The next bout of severe weather will require administrators to hold class on a holiday, cut short spring break or extend the school year.
La Salle-Peru Township High School is among the districts that are out of days. L-P superintendent Steve Wrobleski said the next snow- or cold-related closure will force him to apply the regional office of education for what’s known as an “Act of God” day.
Yes, an Act of God day. It’s a one-shot cancellation that won’t need to be made up and won’t negatively impact L-P’s general state aid.
After that, Wrobleski may have to consider cutting into scheduled vacation time, which would require consultation with the teachers’ union, to keep graduation day from creeping into June.
“I’m hoping that we do not exceed the five days,” he said. “As far as our staff, it is frustrating for all of us to have the week disrupted with cancelled days.
“However, our staff places the safety of the kids and each other above missing days — everyone understands when we close due to bad weather.”
Other school districts are mulling over their options or have tentative plans in place. Mendota High School does not plan to add days to the end of the semester.
Princeton High School and Princeton Elementary School have taken a total of five days and have been able to make two of them up already by reporting on scheduled holidays.
Bureau Valley High School has used four snow days — within one of its allotment — and are hoping for mild weather the rest of the way.
That’s a dicey proposition. Snow is forecast today and February is not, historically speaking, a mild month. The National Weather Service says Peru typically gets 6 inches of snow and average temperature of 27 degrees during February — figures that don’t seem half bad right now — but meteorologist Stephen Rodriguez said there’s good reason we’ll see a continuation of January’s extremes.
“It does look like we’ll remain in a cold pattern — maybe not as cold as we’ve been — as well as remaining fairly active with respect to precipitation,” Rodriguez said.
That’s bad news for teachers who are having trouble getting school kids to remember where they left off, much less retain lessons that were imparted before unscheduled breaks.
Waltham Elementary, which also has depleted its snow days, missed half its days over the past two weeks. Monday, Jan. 20 had been scratched for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and then snow wiped out the following Tuesday and Thursday and then Monday and Tuesday of this week.
“That is very disruptive to the process and makes it hard to keep the kids engaged,” principal Kristi Eager said. “And it’s a lot easier to teach children in January and February than it is in May, when it’s nice outside and they’re ready for summer.”