STERLING – While the temperature and wind chill played a major factor in the decision to close area schools for today, so did an issue with some of the buses.
Buses used by the Sterling, Dixon and Rock Falls school districts had issues starting Monday, district officials said, because of the diesel fuel in the buses gelling, which happens when the fuel reaches a certain temperature and can't be pumped through fuel lines.
Diesel fuel can begin to gel around 10 below, depending on the quality of the fuel, and can be treated with various additives.
In Rock Falls, there was discussion about a late start to classes Monday, Rock Falls District 13 Superintendent Dan Arickx said, but the buses not starting was the "last piece of the puzzle" to cancel school.
Dixon School District Superintendent Michael Juenger learned of the bus issue around 11:30 a.m., he said, and made the decision to close his district's schools for today about 30 minutes later.
The Sterling School District made the decision to close its schools today late in the afternoon Monday, said Superintendent Tad Everett, based on three factors, including the bus issue.
The district also made its decision based on the forecasted temperature, which included a high of 4 degrees with wind chills about 40 below, according to the National Weather Service, and the conditions on county roads with high winds and snow drifts.
Schools that were closed Monday or today will have to make those days up at the end of the year.
Because districts made the announcement to cancel school Monday and not this morning, they could be at risk of losing some state funding for the day, Everett said. This could happen if a district was audited, he said, but losing the funding isn't automatic.
While Everett didn't want to speak for the state, he said he didn't think this is a situation that the state will hold a district accountable for making the decision early.
“I think they’d have a difficult time to say that a district was a fault for calling [the day before],” he said.
Unlike snow conditions – which can be difficult to anticipate, despite forecasts – temperatures as low as they were expected to be, even if off by 5 or 10 degrees, Everett said, still are severe.
Superintendents were hopeful schools would be open Wednesday, they said, but would monitor the weather reports during the day today and speak with bus officials, just as they had done Monday.
All schools closed again today
The following schools have been closed for today:
Amboy Public Schools
Bureau Valley Public Schools
Chadwick-Milledgeville Public Schools
Christ Lutheran School in Sterling
Dixon Public Schools
East Coloma-Nelson school
Eastland Public Schools
Erie Public Schools
Faith Christian School in Dixon
Forrestville Valley Public School
Morrison Public Schools
Newman Central Catholic High School
Oregon Public Schools
Paw Paw Public Schools
Polo Public Schools
Prophetstown-Lyndon-Tampico Public Schools
Rochelle Public Schools
Rock Falls District 13 elementary and middle schools
Rock Falls High School
St. Andrew School in Rock Falls
St. Anne School in Dixon
St. Mary school in Dixon
St. Mary's School in Sterling
Sterling Public Schools
West Carroll Public Schools