Many Considerations in Making This Decision
When weather is severe, it’s helpful to be familiar with the procedures that District 96 will follow when there is a need to cancel classes and/or after-school activities.
The decision to close school is more complex than most people realize….
With the safety of our students and staff foremost in mind, decisions to close are circumstance-specific. Considerations include the following:
• Temperature (-20 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) and Wind Chill (a wind chill of -35 degrees Fahrenheit is dangerous, as exposure for more than 20–30 minutes makes skin susceptible to frostbite)
• Conditions for our students who walk to school
• The ability of school bus drivers to report to work on time and the ability of buses to function
• The stability of weather predictions. That is, how likely is it that between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on the school day in question will the weather truly be what was predicted (with wind chill predictions typically more stable than snow predictions)?
• Conditions in our buildings (heat/water/electricity/access to parking lots and sidewalks)
Likewise, District administrators must also consider:
• How long can a student wait safely at a bus stop for a bus that could be delayed?
• What will be the consequences for passengers if a bus breaks down in the extreme weather?
• Is it safe for walkers to walk to school?
We recognize that a decision to close schools often requires alternative plans for childcare and other work arrangements. Be assured that when I make that decision in collaboration with area superintendents also considering factors and circumstances like those in District 96, I inform our families immediately. Decisions to close due to extreme cold are more likely to come the evening before if–and only if–National Weather Service/NOAA information is sufficient to support closing for the safety of our students and staff.
Note, however, that it is highly unlikely that I will announce a decision to close due to expected snowfall before the morning of the day in question. When the snow falls is as important as how much snow is expected to fall. If roads can be plowed during the night and bus drivers can report, school will likely be in session. We can all recall forecasts of snow that never fell and know that media can make all-day news of an anticipated storm! For those reasons, my announcing a closing for snow the day before is unlikely. If we choose to close, our current practice is to communicate that decision as close to 5:00 AM as possible.
If weather conditions warrant it, I may choose to direct our bus drivers to begin their after-school routes early, allowing additional time so that regularly scheduled return times for our students who ride buses can be met as closely as possible. Students who walk will not be released before the end of the regular school day, should this occur.
District 96 uses contact information from our student database to send the message of a school closing or emergency to all parents/guardians and staff. We send messages related to closings, delays, or emergencies in phone, email, and text* message formats to ensure you receive them as soon as possible. (*Families who did not opt in will not receive text messages. Find the process to opt-in to receive text messages HERE.)
Also, a banner with notification of a closing is added to the District and school homepages on our District website. Social media notifications, if provided, would occur later–after the District’s previously described notification procedures of phone call, email, website banner, and text message are carried out.
If your contact information changes, be sure to notify the administrative assistant at your student’s school to update our database with your new email/phone number. School Phone Numbers
If you have questions, please contact our public information coordinator, 847.459.4260, ext. 8022.
Looking forward to spring!
Julie Schmidt, District 96 Superintendent of Schools