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Emergency school closing an important decision

Published: Monday, May 6, 2013 4:19 p.m. CDT
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John Langton

The adage of closing school for a “snow day” may conjure up images of an exciting free day from the classroom to play in the snow during the winter months. However, the recent storms and related flooding caused many local school districts to close school in the midst of spring while many area children are more concerned with spring sports than building a snowman.

Most public schools in DuPage County average 174 to 175 days of attendance for students, with teachers and other school staff working additional days to accommodate training and curriculum development. The school year calendars are approved annually by the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure that the minimum number of required days for pupil attendance is met.

Each school district creates its calendar, which does not necessarily include “built-in” snow/emergency days. If a school district cancels school, it often will be required to make up the day after the originally scheduled last day of attendance.

The decision to close a school is made by the superintendent of schools under the advisement of facilities staff, local municipal agencies and the input of colleagues from other local school districts. Although there are many reasons taken into consideration for closing school, the safety of students and staff always drives a superintendent’s reasoning for making the final call.

It is critical to consider the implications for families when canceling school. The variables for an elementary school district can be different from those considered by the superintendent of a high school district. A majority of elementary school families have child care needs for younger children when parents need to go to work.

Sometimes it is a better choice to keep our schools open so that children have a safe place to go as an alternative to possibly being home alone. Likewise, there are considerations necessary for the driving conditions that high school student drivers and staff need to contend with.

The recent flooding caused many school leaders to close school because of flooding threats to facilities and because staff were unable to report for work due to the numerous road closures.

John Langton is superintendent for Addison School District 4

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