The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

March 1, 2014

Schools grapple with lost time

Districts change calendars to meet requirements

DANVILLE — With another significant snow looming in this weekend’s forecast, area school officials wonder just how many school days they’re going to end up canceling this year and, in the case of Indiana schools, how much instructional time they will have to make up by this summer.

All of the public schools in Vermilion County have exhausted the five emergency snow days the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) requires districts to build into their school calendars to ensure students attend 176 instructional days each school year.

Georgetown-Ridge Farm Superintendent Jean Neal said she doesn’t remember having as many days off from school due to snow or wind chill as this school year “in my professional life or my entire life.”

Neal said she considers many factors when she decides whether to call off school.

“I take into consideration the farthest distance a child would have to walk to get to school, which is 10 to 15 minutes,” she said.

“I check several websites and with different superintendents, and I check with highway department officials,” she said. “I have people drive the rural routes.

“You want to educate the children, but also you want them to be safe,” she said of her decision-making process.

Danville Superintendent Mark Denman echoed Neal’s observations.

“We’ve not had this many emergency days ever,” he said, recalling having only one snow day in fifth grade and one ice day in eighth grade, although snow days seemed to become more frequent when he attended Danville High School in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“When I was a kid, you lived close to school, so you wore galoshes and snowsuits when you walked to school,” he said.

To cover any additional days off beyond the initial five emergency days a district must make up, local school districts have 30 days in which to apply for an Act of God exemption with the Vermilion County Regional Superintendent’s office. Illinois law allows school districts to apply for Act of God days so that districts don’t have to make up more than the five emergency days.

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