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Another cancellation would extend school year

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 8:58 p.m. CST
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Bundled against the bitter cold, Lincoln Elementary School janitor Paul Coomes works to clear the sidewalk Monday morning at the Dixon school.

With the severe winter weather that has hit the Sauk Valley and much of the state, public schools could end up adding days to their academic years.

After area schools were closed Monday for the fourth day this academic year, then announced that they will be closed again Tuesday, they reached their maximum allotment of canceled classes. If school is canceled another day, the academic year will have to be extended.

Dixon Public Schools Superintendent Michael Juenger said the decision to cancel school comes down to safety, not whether days will have to be added to the end of the year.

About 70 percent of Dixon students are eligible to ride a bus, Juenger said, although not all of them do. Because of that, the district would rather cancel school and add a day, he said, than have that many students out in weather that can cause frostbite.

Anytime the temperature drops below 32 degrees, there’s a risk of frostbite, said Sue Prosch, director of the emergency department at KSB Hospital in Dixon, and that risk increases when the temperature is below 0.

Frostbite on unexposed skin can take effect within 5 to 10 minutes, she said, adding that children and older adults are more at risk. To prevent frostbite, Prosch said residents should dress in layers, avoid being outside for prolonged periods of time and keep moving to improve circulation.

Elementary and high schools aren’t the only ones closing in the cold. Sauk Valley Community College also shuttered its doors to keep its students from shuddering. But makeup days are rare in the world of higher ed.

“Our schedules are set with so many weeks each semester, so classes will finish with the schedule already set. We do not extend the semesters,” Sauk spokeswoman Rachel Kobus said in a email – from home – Monday.

“Instructors have a syllabus in place, so students know what they need to prepare for every week and can decide how to handle missed days as needed. Many times, students can complete assignments or listen to missed lectures online,” Kobus wrote. “It is (in) a very rare instance that we will use workshop days to make up for lost time and if absolutely needed will extend (but again very rare). As stated previously, we have a set schedule with an end date with other resources in place.”

According to the National Weather Service, today’s forecast is a high of 1 below, with wind chill temperatures as low as 39 below and winds from 5 to 15 mph and gusts up to 20 mph.

Earlier this month, schools were canceled because of the cold, the wind and diesel fuel in the school buses gelling, which happens about 10 below and stops the fuel from being pumped through fuel lines.

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