Photo by Caleb Motsinger
Bailey, 8, and Isaac Saffell, 6, of Godfrey, play in the snow as they wait on the school bus in the below freezing temperatures. Both children attend Gilson Brown Elementary School in the Alton School District, where administrators have recently expressed concerns about students waiting at bus stops in cold weather.
The groundhog is getting the last laugh.
Phil, the "famous furry forecaster," saw his shadow Feb. 2, and now some Greater Alton schools are paying for it.
The National Weather Service says the freezing temperatures will continue to bear down on the Metro East region over this weekend and into the week of Feb. 10-14.
"For next week, we won't get above freezing," said Ben Miller, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in St. Louis.
Miller said cold air has moved into the area and is staying for now.
"Through the first part of the winter, we were right on the edge of the storm track," he said. "It was basically tracking right on top of us. Over the last week, the pattern shifted. The storm track is to the south of us. We're locked in with cold air."
The cold air is more than likely what local schools are worried about.
John Pearson, superintendent for East Alton-Wood River High School, said some schools live by the "hard and fast rule" - if the wind chill factor gets below -10, they call off school.
Pearson said districts exercise caution when it comes to students standing at bus stops in cold weather.
"The frigid temperatures pose a risk for students who walk and wait at bus stops," according to the Roxana School District's website on Thursday, Feb. 6. "Thank you for your patience as we get through these difficult weather conditions."
Most school districts have five snow days built in, but anything after that is an "Act of God" day, where districts will not have to make up the snow days at the end of the school year.
Roxana school officials say their district has taken nine snow days, while the Alton School District has taken 10. EA-WR has taken eight days.
"Student safety is our number one priority," said Kristie Baumgartner, assistant superintendent at the Alton school district. "However, when possible, we prefer our students to be in our classes so they don't miss critical instruction."
She praised the school's teachers and maintenance workers for taking extra steps to keep the school running efficiently amidst the weather.
"Teachers will take necessary adjusting and pacing to make sure students are still exposed to all components of our curriculum," Baumgartner said.
Pearson said when schools take snow days in the middle of the week, it puts students and teachers behind on material they missed.
"It disrupts the week. It disrupts teachers. It disrupts the kids' learning," he said.
Above all, districts emphasize student safety.
"I miss working with my students when I'm not there," said Tyler Sims, an eighth-grade teacher in District 13's East Alton Elementary School. "But a safe school environment should always come first."
Road salt supply meeting demand
The Illinois Department of Transportation is keeping up with the winter weather on the roads, a spokesman says.
Joe Monroe, an IDOT District 8 (composed of 11 counties, including Madison) operations engineer, said the district's salt supply is in good shape.
"Right now, we have enough on hand to get us through next week," he said.
Monroe said IDOT has used 51,000 tons of salt this winter to keep the roads passable, adding they used about 35,000 tons last winter.
He said snow on the roads has not given IDOT any trouble they weren't expecting, citing the snow as "not kicking up as much as we thought."
"Everything is going reasonably well," Monroe said.