Cold days called into question

Subzero temps and snow cause two days off sxchoo

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Due to record-breaking wind chill temperatures as cold as -50 degrees Fahrenheit, Superintendent Paul Sally made the decision to close school on Wednesday, Jan. 30 and Thursday, Jan. 31.

Sally said staff and student safety is always the top priority while deciding whether to open school in extreme weather conditions, but logistical concerns play a role as well.

“At those temperatures, frostbite can occur very quickly on exposed skin. In addition, buses and the school heating and other systems are at a greater risk of breaking down and not working,” said Sally.

Most students were glad to have the days off, including Sophomore Madeline Brown who spent Wednesday inside watching movies with her mom, and Thursday hanging out with her friends and boyfriend.

“It was a nice break, especially right after finals,” said Brown.

Though many students use days off due to weather to relax and de-stress, students inevitably dread adding days to the calendar at the end of the school year.

“I would rather have had school just because I don’t want extra days of [school in the] summer,” said Sophomore Ashley Kim.

Junior Jacqueline Blumin agrees that adding another day to the already long school year is unfair. She also said that the school should have a better contingency plan for making up days when school is cancelled due to weather.

“I think they should try and build in to the school year [more] days at the end of the year that we can replace with days off due to snow or cold,” said Blumin.

Blumin pointed out that many other schools have more emergency days built into their schedule than New Trier.

For example, according to the Evanston Township District Calendar for 2018-19, Jun. 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 are defined as emergency days for the Evanston Township. Feb. 18 and 22 are also designated as days that “may be used as a make-up day.”

New Trier, on the other hand, only has one specified emergency day in second semester—Jun. 12. Because there have already been two days off due to winter weather this semester, it is unclear how the schedule for the remainder of the school year will be impacted.

“I will be reviewing options with the Board of Education and they will approve an adjusted schedule at the Feb. 19 Board Meeting. One of our priorities is making sure we can start Summer School on June 17,” said Sally.

In addition to Wednesday and Thursday, Monday, Jan. 28 also brought problematic winter weather. However, the concern over opening school was due to snow, and not necessarily the cold.

Sally drove around the township early in the morning before he made the decision whether or not to call off school, but in the end decided to keep the school open.

“I felt the conditions were not too dangerous with proper winter driving. The snow was scheduled to end by mid-morning but start again in the late afternoon/evening. Since we had a 1:20 dismissal time, I felt the travel home would be safe,” said Sally.

Some students, though, believe that Sally should have cancelled school on Monday. Kim said that the snow was dangerous to many of her fellow classmates.

“We were missing half of our chemistry class for Early Bird because there was so much traffic and people were slipping, and it wasn’t really great,” said Kim.

Student and staff safety remains Sally’s number one concern, and he particularly emphasized the fact that at all times, but especially when travelling to school, proper precautions should be taken in the winter.

Sally hopes that students and families take the steps needed to travel safely in cold and snowy weather.

“That is one reason why we put the safe driving tips on our website this past week. It still can be found on the front page – it’s the last item below the scroll.”

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