District 97: Update regarding the end of the 2013-14 school year

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By Community Editor

COURTESY OF OAK PARK DISTRICT 97
 
Dear District 97 Community,
The severe weather that descended upon the area during the past few weeks tested the resolve of our entire community. Please permit me to express my appreciation for the patience and understanding you exhibited during this challenging time, as well as for the thoughtful feedback several of you provided regarding the school closings throughout the area. While opinions about the decision to cancel classes varied, every email and phone call we received reflected a genuine concern for the health and safety of our students and staff.
As you know, we have experienced several extraordinary weather events during the past three years, including a blizzard in 2011, flooding in 2013 and the near record cold in January. In any situation involving inclement weather, there is a process I follow as the superintendent of schools when deciding whether we will be in session. This process includes:
  • Closely monitoring the forecast and assessing the conditions of our buildings and grounds.
  • Engaging in an ongoing dialogue with community partners such as the Village of Oak Park and Districts 90 and 200.
  • Evaluating our capacity to provide vital services under the conditions that exist (transportation, food service, etc.)
I also carefully consider a variety of factors that correspond with a weather emergency. These factors include, but are not limited to, the total amount of precipitation, the temperature, the timing of a storm, the condition of the streets and sidewalks, and the potential impact taking days off will have on our working families. In the end, regardless of how complex a situation may be, our primary goal when making any school-related decision has been and always will be to do what is best for the nearly 6,000 pupils we serve.

As we look ahead to the end of the school year, we are required by law to be in session a minimum of 176 days. We are also required by law to make up any of the five emergency days we are mandated by the state to factor into our school calendar. With this in mind, we have spent the past few days researching and discussing the options that are available for making up the two emergency days we used last week. These options included reducing the length of spring break, rescheduling our February 14 Institute Day, holding school during one or more of the remaining holidays or extending the end of the school year as we have done in the past.

After reviewing all of these options and consulting with various entities on this issue, including the Illinois State Board of Education, we have decided to move the end of the school year to Tuesday, June 10. We realize that this decision may impact people's summer plans, and apologize for any inconvenience it might cause. However, when we evaluated the available solutions, we determined that this one presented the fewest number of programmatic, financial and/or scheduling challenges for everyone involved.

As for eighth grade graduation, we have decided not to move the date or alter any of the planned activities. The ceremonies for Brooks and Julian will be held as scheduled on Tuesday, June 3 at Oak Park and River Forest High School. While we realize this decision may ultimately impact our General State Aid as it relates to student attendance, we believe any attempt to switch both the date and location at this juncture would be unfair to the hundreds of families who made their plans for this special occasion months ago.

We have also decided to change the dates for the completion of the last two trimesters and the corresponding distribution of report cards. By doing so, we can ensure that each trimester has a similar number of instructional days. The last day of the second trimester will now be Friday, March 5, with report cards being sent home on March 21. The last day of the third trimester will be Tuesday, June 10, with report cards being sent home the same day.

Lastly, there is a chance we may encounter additional weather-related disruptions as the school year progresses.  If we do need to take additional days off due to an unforeseen circumstance, the latest we anticipate our school year will end is Wednesday, June 11. This is because we only have one emergency day remaining. After that, we are allowed by the state to categorize other closures due to "conditions beyond the control of the district that poses a hazardous threat to the health and safety of the students" as "Act of God Days."

Thank you again for your time and attention on this matter, as well as your commitment to education and support of our schools.

Sincerely,

Al Roberts
Superintendent

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