SCHOOL CLOSING GUIDELINES
Determining whether school is open or closed seems simple. In reality it is neither simple nor simplistic. Closing school is always a touchy subject with students, parents and employees. Knowing some of the facts will at least help everyone understand why District 113A doesn't miss much school due to inclement weather.
The Superintendent, Dr. Susan Birkenmaier, is responsible for the decision as to when school is open or closed due to inclement weather, emergencies or during the time when students are present or not. What makes closing schools difficult are the circumstances surrounding the decision. The Dr. Birkenmaier uses the safety of the students and employees as the first priority. But that is not the only criteria."
In this article find answers to the following questions:
- What are the state guidelines for number and length of a school day?
- Who decides what, as far as school closing is concerned?
- How do you determine if it is safe or not to hold school?
- How do you determine if it is too snowy, too cold or too hot in order to close school?
- What should parents do to be prepared for bad weather and possible school closings?
- Where can I find information about school closings?
Should you have any questions about this information, please contact your school principal or the superintendent's office at your earliest convenience.
What are the state guidelines for number and length of a school day?
School Code and Illinois State School Board Guidelines:
By Illinois School Code all public school students must attend school for a minimum of 176 days each school year. A school day must be a minimum of 6 hours per day. District 113 A plans the school year calendar using a collaborative committee process that assures all State Board of Education and School Laws for Illinois are followed. Within the building of a calendar, 5 emergency days must be included for inclement weather and other purposes. District 113 A chose to put those days at the end of the school year. If school is not in session due to weather or other emergency issues, that day must be made up using one or more of the emergency days at the end of the current school year. Likewise, to receive credit for any partial days a minimum of 5 hours of student attendance must be held. In the past the State Superintendent has disallowed requests for “Act of God” days or “Adverse weather conditions” days due to heat. (Click on the link below to view the ISBE calendar guidelines)
Who decides what as far as school closing is concerned?
Safety of students and employees are a big emphasis in District 113A. Safety is everyone's responsibility. When the area is slated for snow, sleet, high or low temperatures, district administrators are in constant contact assessing weather conditions, facility preparedness and community conditions. Below are the responsibilities of district personnel in some of those important areas.
Pam Mazurek, Director of Operations
- Maintenance crews plow salt and clean parking lots, sidewalks and entrances to each facility - Begins after midnight based upon prediction of precipitation.
- Assess conditions throughout the day for continued work.
- Assess heating and air-conditioning systems for climate control.
- Assess power needs for the day or evening activities.
- Is the liaison with the Village Public Works and Park Department for snow removal.
- Prepares the bus fleet.
- Secures drivers and substitute drivers who are CDL licensed.
- Checks the conditions of the roads prior to making a recommendation for travel.
- Approves and schedules all bus routes, stops and field trips for students.
- Checks weather & road conditions with State Police, Village Police, IDOT or the County when appropriate.
- Drives routes and roads to assess weather and road conditions.
Dr. Susan Birkenmaier, Superintendent of Schools
- Determines if schools are open or closed.
- Coordinates school calendar with the Illinois State Board of Education and Cook County Regional Office of Education.
- Discusses closing decision with Lemont High School District 210 Superintendent for continuity.
- Notifies communication system of closing so phone chains and web page notification can begin.
- Posts closing on www.EmergencyClosingCenter.com, radio, TV, phone & internet systems.
- Notifies private schools.
- Notifies local day care centers
- Informs staff, employees, and the public of school closings via district web page (www.sd113a.org).
- Reports school closing to the Board of Education
- Consults with Village Police, Fire, Emergency Management, Township and other Public entities.
- Assess National Weather Service site at www.weather.gov
- Assess the Weather Channel site at www.weatherchannel.com.
- Communicates with local superintendents in the Southeast DuPage County Athletic Association
- Drives roads before determining if school is open or closed.
- Consults with Director of Operations for a final decision.
How do you determine if it is safe or not to hold school?
The following process takes place the morning of a day that weather is predicted to be questionable:
12:00 AM Ms. Mazurek assesses if snow removal is needed. If so it begins as soon as possible.
4:00 AM Dr. Susan Birkenmaier, and Mrs. Mazurak begin driving the roads to determine if they are slick, snow packed or safe. Superintendent goes to each site to assess snow removal.
5:00 AM Dr. Susan Birkenmaier, discusses road and bus conditions with District 210 Superintendent. Usually the two districts will follow suit as siblings can be adversely effected by both district's decision. Ms. Mazurak & Dr. Birkenmaier call Village, Township and County officials, if needed.
Mrs. Mazurak and the Dr. Birkenmaier make a recommendation to stay open or close.
5:15 AM An initial decision is made to stay open or close for the day at this time.
Should conditions deteriorate reconsideration and change of decision must be made between 6:15 AM and 6:45 AM for enough communication lead time for the bus rider, bus driver and parents.
5:20 AM The District Emergency Communication system begins which includes the following.
1. Start all school phone chains.
2. Post the closing on the District Web Page, Emergency School Closings, notify TV & Radio stations & parochial schools.
3. Notify all employees and the Board of Education via e-mail. Only the Administration and 12 month employees must report to work on inclement weather days (custodians, maintenance & secretaries).
4. If closing, send a Premiere Global Service phone message to homes.
10:00 AM Determine if after school or evening activities or meetings will be cancelled.
1. Call conference of schools for discussion of possible closing.
2. Consult with the Superintendent the findings and recommendations.
11:00 AM Determine if schools will be dismissed early for the day.
1. Discuss decision with administrative team
2. Students must be in attendance for 5 hours for the day to count on the school calendar - ISBE & School Code rule. If less than 5 hours the day will need to be made up at the end of the year.
3. If closing early, start communication system for parental notification so students will have an emergency plan of action available and not be sent or left home alone in bad weather.
12:00 Noon Notify all sponsors, administrators and students if afternoon or evening activities or meetings are cancelled. Call Park Department and Parochial Schools and advise of closing. Post closing on District web page and on www.EmergencyClosing.com
8:00 PM Monitor weather for next day determination.
1. Consult with Ms. Mazurak for early decision to close if appropriate. Discuss possible decision with Superintendent from District 210 and other school superintendents in our activities conference and our special education cooperative.
12:00 PM Begin the process once again.
How do you determine if it is too snowy, too cold or too hot in order to close school?
District 113A serves students from the Woodridge, Darien, Downers Grove, Lemont and unincorporated Lemont Township. About 89% of those students live in the Village of Lemont. Students from the two parochial schools are also transported to school using District 113 A buses. Because each of these communities has its own snow removal systems, road conditions in each community can be vastly different on any given day of snow or ice. Historically and traditionally, the Public Works Department of the Village of Lemont has had safety as a major emphasis. Clearing the streets has always been viewed as excellent and, in most cases, roads have been cleared well in advance of any decision to close schools.
The Superintendent and Ms. Mazurak drive streets within each community to determine road conditions in order to decide whether to have school or not. Likewise, they are in contact with various Public Works Departments to help determine road conditions including IDOT and the county highway department, if needed. Other agencies like the police, fire department and emergency management are consulted if appropriate.
District 113A and High School District 210 have had a long standing relationship and agreement concerning school closings. The Superintendent and the superintendent of District 210, collaborate on inclement weather days, the calendar and the decision to keep schools open or closed.
The following road conditions are considered when determining to keep schools open or to close. They are found in priority order:
1. Main Streets in the school district used for bus routes and stops;
2. State Highways or Interstate Highways in the school district used for bus routes and/or stops;
3. Access to the Bus Garage for bus fleet staging, fueling or maintenance;
4. Parking Lots of School Buildings;
5. Entrances and Sidewalks to each School Building;
6. Side Streets, cul-de-sacs, or streets where bus routes or stops are not located; and
7. State Highways or Interstates out of the district not used for bus routes.
Conditions considered suspect to safety when assessing roads, bridges, overpasses, parking lots or school entrances:
• Snow covered pavement of 6” or more with more snow coming in forecast
• Snow packed pavement – no pavement showing – no salt
• Light ice - light snow covering – no pavement showing- no salt
• Ice – no snow – no pavement showing – no salt\
Closing School Due to Excessive Heat or Cold:
As long as the buildings have working systems for heating and air conditioning, when excessive temperatures exist, the school building is one of the safest places student can be housed. Should heating and air conditioning systems not be working, school could be closed for the entire district or just one school. That decision is based upon the circumstance including additional information related to electricity, water, and length of time till the system is repaired. Likewise, if a vast majority of our buses are unable to start or run school may be closed.
All things being considered if heating and air-conditioning systems are working, buses able to run and the road conditions are appropriate, school will be open.
School Closing Parameters* for Heat or Cold:
Temperature - 90 degrees Relative Humidity - 90% School open
Temperature- 95 degrees Relative Humidity – 70 % School may open
Temperature – 100 degrees Relative Humidity – 55 % or higher School may close
Temperature 0 degrees Wind Chill 0 to -30 School open
Temperature -20 degrees Wind Chill -15 to -39 School may open
Temperature -20 degrees Wind Chill Over -39 School may close
*Parameters used for decision making options only and are not viewed as absolute or finite.
Please click on the link below to view the data on Child Care Weather Watch.
What should parents do to be prepared for bad weather and possible school closing?
• At the beginning of each school year or periodically throughout the school year, design or review an emergency plan with your child (ren) in case of school closing or early dismissal.
Include in the plan the following:
Correct emergency phone numbers;
Procedures in case no one is home when you get off the bus;
Child care arrangements at a short notice, if appropriate;
School numbers and school contact people;
Access to 911 or ambulance if needed; and
Other emergency arrangements as needed
• Watch for weather advisories or warnings on the TV, internet or radio
• Go to the district web site at www.sd113a.organd look for information on school closings, school emergencies or other information from your child’s school or district
• Go to the Emergency Closing Web Page at www.EmergencyClosing.com to see if the school district is listed as closed or has special instructions.
• If the school district is in session you can do one of the following:
o Make sure your child is properly dressed for the weather – hot or cold
o Send your child to school following your regular routine
o Take your child to the bus stop via your car and wait for the school bus
o Provide transportation to school for your child
o Set up a car pool to school with other parents and students
o Keep your child home until you feel the weather is safe. Please notify the school so they know where your child is on that day
Where can I find information about school closings?
School Closing Information:
• District 113 A Web page - www.sd113a.org
• Emergency School Closings Web site - www.EmergencyClosing.com
• Emergency School Closing Phone Number – 847-238-1234
• Any Chicago TV Station – Channels 2, 5, 7, 9, or 32 or your local cable system
• Radio Stations WGN AM 720 or WBBM AM 780
For Weather information:
• National Weather Service Web Site – www.weather.gov\
• Weather Channel Web Site – www.weatherchannel.com
School Information Via the Phone:
• 630-257-2286 and wait for the phone menu