It seems as though winter is not quite ready to release us from its mighty grip. Life in the Midwest offers many rewards yet some challenges.
A challenge for school districts, during winter weather situations, is determining when it is safe for students to attend school. As the Alton superintendent, it is imperative for me to ensure that our streets, sidewalks, bus stops, parking lots and temperatures are safe for students to attend school. When they are not, we must cancel school. In making these difficult decisions, student safety is and will continue to be my first priority.
With that said, we also know when students are not in school, they are missing valuable instructional time. To date this year, we have already cancelled school 10 days due to inclement weather. In any given year, 10 days is a significant amount of time.
Illinois districts are required to build five emergency days into our calendars each year and thus, students will still attend five of those 10 days at a later time in the year. The remaining five are approved as “Act of God” days by the state and are no longer required as student attendance days.
As a result, the last day of school for our students will be May 29 this year with Alton High Graduation still taking place on May 23.
Even with the significant number of days lost to weather, teachers are working hard to modify instructional pacing so that students are still exposed, at the deepest possible level, to all components of the curriculum. This is critical in a year where we have experienced so many weather-related events.
On a final note, the testing dates for this year’s Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) also are changing as a result of weather and days missed by students. Our third- through eighth-grade students will take the ISAT during the window of March 10-21. As always, we ask parents to ensure your child gets plenty of sleep and eats a healthy breakfast prior to school as this will aid in giving their best performance on the ISAT.
Dr. Kenneth Spells is superintendent of the Alton School District.