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Q: Why do school superintendents often wait until early morning before canceling school?
While school superintendents monitor the forecast closely and often during times of bad weather, projections can change quickly and often do so over night. Canceling school in the early morning hours helps avoid canceling unnecessarily due to an incorrect forecast, while also providing families time to make childcare arrangements if necessary.
Q: Sometimes school is dismissed early. Why can’t you wait until the weather or temperatures start to worsen before dismissing early?
This is another situation in which the forecast and up-to-date information is important. For many school bus drivers, driving a school bus is not their only occupation. There are also several Bushnell-Prairie City students who attend school in alternate settings (Macomb, Colchester, etc.). The decision to release early is based upon the projected forecast, our ability to get bus drivers in, and get students in other school settings back to the High School before buses leave. Approximately 60% of our students reside in homes that experience financial struggles (qualifying for free and reduced lunch). If we anticipate an early dismissal our goal is always to do so after students have had lunch, although sometimes approaching weather or climbing temperatures makes that impossible. We also adhere to Illinois School Code, which counts a “full day” of student attendance as a day in which school is in session for at least 5 “clock hours”.
Q: Other school districts often announce their buses will only travel on “hard roads”. Why don’t we follow that practice during severe weather?
Given the rural nature of our school district and the number of secondary roads our buses travel, this practice would place students living off of those roads at an unfair disadvantage and diminish their ability to attend school in comparison to students living closer to town.
Q: How is the decision made whether or not to also cancel school related activities?
Most often, school related activities held after school or in the evening are canceled when school has been canceled to avoid putting students and families in unsafe driving conditions. On a few occasions, the weather that caused the school closing (frigid temperatures, impassable roads, heavy snowfall) has passed and there is no risk to travel. In those circumstances, the decision may be made to allow school related activities. Daytime activities such as “open gym” are also considered if travel conditions have improved and there is not an undue burden placed upon families to transport their students to school unexpectedly. The decision whether or not to allow athletic events is further complicated by the “host school” which may or may not have experienced similar weather conditions.
Q: Why does it take so long to announce the official last day of school?
Because of the volatile weather in the Midwest, most school districts don’t announce the official last day of school until well into spring. The last day of school is not official until the Board of Education has taken action to approve the amended calendar that will be submitted to the Regional Office of Education and the State Board of Education. Only then is the District able to share that date with parents, however well before that, information will be shared regarding the "Tentative” last day.
Q: Other districts often call for a 2-hour delayed or late start. Why don't we utilize a late start?
While other school districts call a late start as a way to keep students in school, that practice has never been utilized in Bushnell-Prairie City. That option was researched prior to the start of this school year. We discovered that many districts who utilize late starts experience very poor attendance which in turn impacts teachers’ ability to provide ongoing instruction.
Q: If several school days are canceled due to poor weather or other circumstances, are we required to make up those days?
School districts are required to establish calendars that include 5 emergency days, which is why the last day of school is always noted as “Tentative”. If school is canceled, those days are then used as “make up” days. If school is canceled in excess of the 5 emergency days, school districts have the option to seek what the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) refers to as an Act of God Day, which according to ISBE “may only be applied for after the district has exhausted all of the Proposed Emergency Days built into the Proposed Calendar. Act of God days may only be used for a condition beyond the control of the district that poses a hazardous threat to the health and safety of the students and must be approved by the Regional Superintendent and the State Superintendent of Education. Act of God days reduce the required number of student attendance days in the Public School Calendar, but do not negatively impact General State Aid. Seeking and obtaining permission for an Act of God Day allows us to receive anticipated General State Aid dollars.
School districts also have the option of canceling previously scheduled holidays such as President’s Day, or other days off such as those around the Easter Holiday or a Teacher Institute Day. Making the decision whether to seek an Act of God Day or alter the school calendar and eliminate previously scheduled days, is largely dependent upon the amount of time left in the year to seek those changes and the needs of school district families.