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‘Act of God’

Schools applying for waivers

Many area school districts, but not all, have applied for waivers to amend their school calendars to account for all the weather-related school cancellations they’ve had this year.

On Monday, Angie Zarvell, Regional Office of Education superintendent for Bureau, Henry and Stark counties, said lots of local school districts have already applied for the Act of God school day waiver. It’s a one-step process for school districts to amend their school calendars and submit that amendment approval request to her office, which is then submitted to the State Superintendent of Education for final approval.

All school districts in Illinois are required to have five emergency days built into their school calendars each year, and it’s very rare for a school district to need more than that number in a school year, Zarvell said, adding but this has been an usual winter.

Hopefully there will be no more emergency days this year, Zarvell said.

On Monday, Princeton High School Superintendent Kirk Haring said PHS has applied for an Act of God waiver day for the Feb. 5 school day, which was its sixth missed day this year. The regional superintendent has approved this waiver request, and PHS is waiting for final approval from the state. If approved, these days reduce number of required days of school attendance without a negative impact to general state aid, Haring said.

In his administration experience, he’s never had to apply for an Act of God waiver day before. Hopefully, better weather is just around the corner, he said.

Ladd Elementary Superintendent Michelle Zeko said her district reached its sixth emergency day last week, on Feb. 5. The five emergency days already built into the Ladd School calendar were all used up in January. She also will apply for the Act of God attendance waiver for her district.

This has been a very unusual year, Zeko said. There are some years when few, if any, emergency days are needed. Hopefully, there won’t be any more emergency days needed this year, she said.

Spring Valley Elementary School Superintendent Jim Hermes said his district has also applied for an Act of God calendar waiver day. The district is on it sixth cancelled day and will not be making up that day. The last scheduled attendance day for Spring Valley is still June 5.

One local school district which isn’t having to apply for an Act of God waiver so far is the Bureau Valley School District which covers most of western Bureau County.

On Monday, Superintendent Dennis Thompson said Bureau Valley is at its maximum of the five emergency days built into the school calendar. Hopefully, there won’t be any more emergency days this year for Bureau Valley, he said.

But Thompson said school districts aren’t necessarily out of the woods yet when it comes to emergency days. His concern now is the potential flooding that could occur when the all the snow starts melting this spring. Plus, there are other possible emergency situations which could also happen, like tornadoes or something else that prohibits a school from being in session.

In his 14 years or so as a school administrator, Thompson said he’s never had to apply for an Act of God school day waiver. Again, it’s been an unusual winter with not just the snow but also the extreme cold, he said.

According to the Illinois School Code, the Act of God day may only be used only after the district has used all of its proposed emergency days built into the school calendar. An Act of God day may only be used for a “condition beyond the control of the district that posses a hazardous threat to the health and safety of the students.”

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