Snow days or remote days? Illinois districts weigh options as snowstorms move through state

A person shovels snow from a sidewalk on February 16, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.
Some Illinois schools have canceled classes while others have decided to shift to remote instruction as two storms were expected to hit the state Tuesday night. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

This story was updated to reflect that Chicago Public Schools will be open to students Wednesday.

With Illinois bracing for two winter storms, downstate school districts are making a tough call. Some are closing schools for a snow day while others are going remote in an effort to preserve some learning amid an already interrupted pandemic year.

The state’s largest school district, Chicago Public Schools, said early Wednesday it would be open to students, after delaying the call Tuesday to monitor the weather. The district urged families to take extra precautions but said all campuses would be open for full instruction.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Springfield School District 186, Joliet Public Schools 86, and Bloomington School District 87 decided to close school buildings on Wednesday and Thursday for snow days, which will have to be made up before the end of the school year. 

Meanwhile, Peoria Public School 150 and Valley View 365U will have an e-learning day for students. 

The state is facing two winter storms that are expected to hit Tuesday night and last through Thursday, the National Weather Service is reporting.

Chicago could get from 5 to 11 inches of snow by Wednesday morning with additional snow falling through Thursday, according to the report.

In suburban Oaklawn, District 123 announced it would switch to emergency remote learning, while District 122 planned to close school buildings and cancel all instruction Wednesday.

Chicago Public Schools waited to make the call. By Tuesday evening, Chicago Public Schools had yet to make a decision about canceling classes but told teachers to plan to report to school buildings Wednesday. “We are monitoring the weather forecast carefully and will communicate with you if anything changes,” the e-mail said.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, CEO Pedro Martinez said the district would factor into its decision how much snow is expected to drop in Chicago, the timing of the snowfall, and whether city crews would be able to clear streets before the morning commute.

Tuesday afternoon, the district placed school administrators on standby to send electronic learning devices home should the district cancel in-person instruction, Martinez said. It’s not clear how many administrators prepared for remote learning.

Other districts across the Midwest, including Detroit, made the call to go remote for the remainder of the week in the face of the storm.

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