Saturday, January 25, 2014

Is a "Snow Day" an "Act of God?"

"Act of God Days (Calendar Code AOG) may only be applied for after the district has exhausted all of the Proposed Emergency Days built into the Proposed Calendar. Act of God Days may only be used for a condition beyond the control of the district that poses a hazardous threat to the health and safety of the students. These days must be approved by the Regional Superintendent and the State Superintendent of Education. Act of God Days reduce the required number of student attendance days in the Public School Calendar, but do not negatively impact General State Aid. (Citation 105 ILCS 5/18-12)" - Key Checkpoints to Review Before Approval of the Public School Calendar, Illinois State Board of Education 
Despite the title of this post, I am not going to explain where snow comes from, enter into a theological debate about God, or even discuss the interesting legal issues regarding Illinois School Code referring to “Act of God Days.” 
One of the most common questions that I am asked after a weather related closing of school is, “Do we have to make this day up in May or June?”  The short answer is always, “Yes!”  The Illinois School Code and Illinois State Board of Education Guidance regarding public school calendars requires all public schools to build in five (5) extra days for weather-related closings.  That means that the first five closings of any given school year are already in the calendar and will be made up.  Beyond five closings, the “Act of God” provision kicks in. 
If a school district has more than five weather-related or emergency closings in one school year, the district must submit a request to the Regional Office of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education for a waiver to avoid having to make up these additional days.  Not all of these waivers are approved.
I completely understand why people are so curious about “make-up days.”  Summer travel plans for students and families, scheduling summer school, and planning professional development activities all require advanced planning.  Unfortunately, one cannot reason with winter weather.  We just all have to dress warmly, drive slowly, and enjoy winter.

Many Illinois districts have already passed five days.  Right now, the district I work for is at five (5) [UPDATED January 29, 2014].  While I love winter, I am hoping that we don’t see another Polar Vortex or heavy snowfall for the next five months.