The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 6, 2014

Weather takes toll on schools; plans for make-up days

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Unfavorable weather has taken its toll on the Gateway area and local schools are facing the burden that’s been brought on by the snow and cold this winter season.

So far, both the Camanche and River Bend school districts have canceled school at least five times because of snow, ice or cold, and each district has its own way of dealing with it.

“(For us) make up days are just added on to the school calendar at the end of the year,” Camanche Superintendent Tom Parker said. “That works out for us because then people know when we have a cancellation, that missed day just gets added to the end. It’s pretty much common knowledge and it makes it easier for parents to know when those days are made up.”

River Bend also adds missed days to the end of the school year, but school calendar days are handled a little differently in Illinois than in Iowa.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, a provision in the state law known as “Act of God” days, says that if a school exceeds its allotted five emergency days, they may not be required to make up any additional cancellations due to forces beyond their control.

While River Bend Superintendent Chuck Holliday doesn’t expect the district to exceed the five emergency days, if the troublesome weather continues, River Bend must go through a request process with the Illinois State Board of Education before those make-up days can be waived from the end of the school year.

“Should we have to cancel more instructional days this school year, the board of education has the option of rescheduling the days or requesting Act of God Days through the Illinois State Board of Education,” said Holliday in a press release. “Act of God Days, if requested by the local board of education and approved by the Illinois State Board of Education, allow a local school district not to make-up weather days beyond five.”

Even though the River Bend School District and the Camanche School District are a mere 10 miles apart, many administrative differences separate the two and as Parker said “sometimes that river is a little wider than you think.”

While Illinois enacts the Act of God days, Iowa does not institute such a policy and any day that is missed due to weather, health emergency or any other situation hazardous to student attendance, must be made up at the end of the school year.

“In Iowa, a school year has to be 180 days of direct interaction with a student,” Parker said. “If you cancel a day, you have to make up that day no matter what.”

And as enjoyable as those missed school days may be to some students, the disruption to the scheduled routine causes additional stress to the school administration and staff, and can hinder the learning process of the students.

According to Parker, students tend to have more focus during the middle portion of the school year and because of added distractions and anticipation for summer vacation, rescheduling days at the end of the year can often hinder a students’ desire to learn.

But, knowing your environment is just one of the things a superintendent comes to understand when leading a school district and adapting to the conditions is a lesson learned in time.

“It does disrupt the general flow of the routine you get into day in and day out and we’re always concerned with the academic routine,” Parker said. “We’d like to be able to run our school calendar as planned. But, once again, living in Iowa you’re going to have to deal with snow days.”