As the metro-east braced for a winter storm that was expected to bring ice Friday, area school districts were making plans Thursday for their students and staff.
Some school districts, like O’Fallon District 90, opted to cancel after-school programs ahead of the storm. Others wanted to wait until Thursday evening to make a decision on cancellations.
At least one local district leader was personally affected by the winter weather: Superintendent Jeff Dosier missed the last school board meeting because his flight was delayed after visiting family in Oregon over the weekend.
“So I do understand that this is a bad storm,” Dosier said.
The weather led the region’s largest school district to cancel its classes on Friday. Kelvin Adams, superintendent of St. Louis School District, announced on Twitter that the district schools and offices will be closed. All school activities are also postponed.
St. Clair County schools
In East St. Louis District 189, all campuses are closed Friday because of the inclement weather, according to district spokeswoman Sydney Stigge-Kaufman.
After-school activities on Thursday continued as planned, she said, with the exception of one school.
“As of now, all after-school activities scheduled at Mason/Clark Middle School have been canceled today and tomorrow,” she stated Thursday.
One evening basketball game at Mason/Clark continued, though: the game against Lincoln.
O’Fallon District 90 announced in a post to its Facebook page Wednesday morning that it would not offer after-school care services on Friday because of the threat of freezing rain. A letter was also sent to affected families informing them of the cancellation.
“For the safety of our students and staff, we feel it is best that families have time to make alternate arrangements for Friday afternoon/evening,” District 90 stated. “We apologize for any inconvenience.”
The district said the decision was made based on its experience during the ice storm before winter break; Many parents at the time had trouble picking up students in the after-school program by 6 p.m. because of road conditions, according to the district.
“Some staff and students were therefore stranded at the school until after 9 p.m.,” the district stated.
District 90 officials announced about 5:30 p.m. Thursday that Friday classes were canceled. The school district said all extracurricular activities and events for Friday and Saturday were also canceled.
Belleville District 118 schools were also closed Friday because of the weather forecasts and travel advisories.
Superintendent Matt Klosterman said district leaders on Thursday were watching for updates from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Missouri Department of Transportation, as well as local meteorologists, and were communicating with other superintendents in the metro-east.
Because school is canceled, Klosterman said the district’s after-school child care program is canceled, too.
Klosterman said the decision would be made based on when experts think the winter storm will hit the metro-east, which has been pushed back from the original prediction of Thursday evening, and based on the amount of ice they think will accumulate.
“We have decisions to make about students and staff getting to school safely, but we also have to make decisions about them getting home safely,” Klosterman said. “... We just saw a few weeks ago what a little bit of ice can do. It pretty much shut everything down.”
Early dismissal isn’t a consideration in District 118, according to Klosterman, because officials don’t want to send young children home to a house that potentially has no supervision if the parents work.
One of the local superintendents who District 118 was communicating with about the storm is Jeff Dosier of Belleville District 201. Dosier said that’s because many area families have children in both the Belleville elementary schools and high schools.
Just after 5 p.m. on Thursday, District 201 officials announced that Belleville East and West would be closed on Friday. Althoff Catholic High School also announced Thursday that it would not hold classes on Friday.
Doiser has already experienced the travel difficulties of the winter storm when he was visiting family in central Oregon over the weekend. He said his flight home Sunday was delayed because of snow, so he didn’t return to the metro-east until Wednesday.
“I don’t care if I ever see snow again,” Dosier said.
Ahead of the district’s decision about whether to close school, Dosier said after-school activities were already rescheduled or canceled.
Belleville East’s and West’s Friday night events were moved to Thursday night, according to Dosier, and events for Friday evening and Saturday morning were canceled. He said those events could be rescheduled at a later date.
Madison County schools
Most of the time, the individual school districts make the decision separately, and usually in the early hours of the morning after the condition of the roads has been checked.
In this case, however, the superintendents were talking to each other and Granite City Superintendent Jim Greenwald said they would likely issue a decision together on Thursday night. He said emails were going out Thursday to all the districts in Madison and St. Clair counties.
With the timing of this storm, Greenwald said, they didn’t want to make their decision based on clear roads at 5 a.m., only to have the icy rain come through at 10 a.m. and trap students and staff in the schools.
Greenwald said it’s the first time he can recall that superintendents have decided to make a collective decision. “Normally the superintendents are responsible for making the decision on their own,” he said.
Later that night, officials in Highland District 5, Collinsville Unit 10, Triad District 2 and Edwardsville District 7 announced that school would be closed Friday. Edwardsville has also canceled all school activities for Saturday.
Here is a link to closings complied by KTVI Fox 2 in St. Louis.
Additional information contributed by BND reporter Elizabeth Donald.