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Kids get unscheduled winter "vacation"

A row of Forrestville Valley school buses are plugged in outside the bus garage at Forreston High School Monday night to keep the engines warm. Photo by Vinde Wells
A row of Forrestville Valley school buses are plugged in outside the bus garage at Forreston High School Monday night to keep the engines warm. Photo by Vinde Wells

Forrestville Valley students finally returned to their classrooms Monday after an unscheduled “vacation” of almost two weeks.

Extreme winter weather caused the cancellation of school for seven of the last 10 days in the district.

And that was on top of a day off on Monday, Jan. 21 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Districts all over Ogle County and across northern Illinois dismissed around noon the following day, Jan. 22, with a snowstorm moving in.

Classes were called off again on Jan. 23 due to the road conditions from the six or more inches of drifting snow that fell.

It was back to class on Jan. 24, but more time off the next day because of road conditions and temperatures well below zero.

Then Old Man Winter really got down to business. Sunday evening into Monday, Jan. 28 brought at least six more inches of blowing snow followed by plummeting temperatures.

The low by early on Wednesday, Jan. 30 was -28 with north and northwest winds making it feel like an estimated -55.

On Thursday morning the mercury hit -38 in nearby Mt. Carroll, a state record for the coldest temperature ever.

Students in all local districts got all four days off. Many returned to class on Friday, Feb. 1, but not in the Forrestville Valley School District.

The cold claimed yet one more day, this time affecting their mode of transportation.

“The cold weather caused operational issues with our school buses and school was canceled on Friday, Feb. 1,” said Superintendent Sheri Smith.

The impromptu vacation doesn't come without a cost. Students will have to attend five more days than planned to make up for it.

Polo School Superintendent Chris Rademacher said the use of all five emergency days means the fourth quarter will end on June 6, rather than May 30.

Oregon Superintendent Tom Mahoney said students in that district will also go to school five extra days.

The district has moved a teachers’ institute day from Feb. 15 to the end of the year, allowing students to get out of school for the year on May 24. The last day of school had been scheduled for May 20.

Mahoney said he will initiate the process to have the additional emergency days declared Act of God Days. 

The request needs the approval of the Regional Office of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education.

Smith said school will likely end on June 5 as scheduled because the calendar has five days built into it for emergency days. However, some days previously scheduled as vacation may become attendance days.

The Forrestville Valley School Board was scheduled to approve a revised school calendar at a special meeting on Feb. 6.

On the bright side, spring could be here soon.

Last Saturday dawned cloudy and stayed that way until late morning — which means if the groundhog got up early enough, he definitely did not see his shadow.

And that, according to weather legend, means spring is “just around the corner.”

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