SNOW STARTED FALLING in Coal City around 6 a.m. Tuesday and was still coming down at a steady pace 12 hours later. The winter storm resulted in cancelled classes at Unit #1 Schools on Tuesday and snow covered roadways throughout Grundy and Will counties.
Ann Gill Editor
Just the mention of a winter storm prompted pleas of a snow day for local school students. Their request was granted when it was announced early Tuesday morning that classes had been canceled in advance of a late winter storm.
The issuance of a winter storm warning with snow accumulation of 5-9 inches accompanied by strong winds, prompted the closure. The announcement was made around 5:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before the snow started falling in Coal City.
Unit #1 School Superintendent Dr. Kent Bugg said there are many variables to consider when making the call to cancel classes.
Bugg said he consults with the school board president and holds discussions with area school district superintendents the night prior to an expected weather event. He keeps a close watch on local news forecasts, and receives weather alerts from the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency.
"If at all possible I try to wait until early he next morning to make a decision, so my determination is based on the most current weather information. I usually start looking at local weather reports and forecasts at 3 a.m. to see if anything has changed from the previous night. If it has been snowing, I start driving our school district's country roads at 4 a.m. in order to make an informed decision by 5 a.m." Bugg said, noting student safety is always the school's top priority.
If the decision is made to cancel classes the district begins to communicate that out to the public around 5:30 p.m. Closure notices are issued on the district's website, as well as through Facebook and Twitter. Notification is also issued to local news outlets and sent to student homes through the automated phone system.
Tuesday's storm is the second snow producer in seven days, and Bugg said he did hear from a few parents last week wondering why students were not being let out early.
"My experience has been that in such situations, by the time school is out, the snow plows have done their jobs and the roads have been cleared. The absolute worst time to let students out is in the midst of a snowstorm," he said.
Village maintenance crews have been out since the snow started Tuesday morning clearing streets and laying down salt. The main streets in Coal City were wet, but snow free.
"Our crews have been out in force all day and we're monitoring the path of the storm," Village Administrator Matt Fritz said at mid-day Tuesday.
Village maintenance workers were on a rotating schedule so plows remained on the streets. Fritz said equipment was ready, if needed, to haul accumulating snow away from Broadway.
"The important thing is to have all the trucks running. We're prepared for the worse of the snow that is expected to begin after 5 p.m. and not taper off until 9 or 10 p.m.," Fritz said.
The storm was expected to begin moving out of the area late Tuesday evening and the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures to reach the into the upper 40's by the weekend.
As for Tuesday's snow day, students in the Unit #1 School District will have to make the day up at the end of the school year.
"The state requires that we have 174 student attendance days no matter what. Therefore, we build five emergency days into our calendar to utilize in case of such events," Bugg said, noting the canceling, or not canceling of school has nothing to due with state education funding.
Bugg said the new end of year calendar pushes the last day of school back to Friday, May 24 with report cards being distributed Wednesday, May 29.