Even though districts around them shut for the second day due to extreme cold, Forest Park schools were open Tuesday, including preschool at Garfield School where students and parents trudged to school. The district said parents could choose not to send their children to school and absences will not be counted as unexcused.
The Forest Park Teachers Union Facebook page reported the union requested the day off Monday due to dangerous cold as temperatures plunged to -17 degrees.
“We will stand by any and all members who chose safety over the workday tomorrow,” a post said Sunday night. “We will be pushing this issue and will stand up for anyone who chooses to stay home tomorrow. While we encourage everyone to come to work, we will not tolerate negative retribution should a member have to stay home,” the post continued.
But District 91 Superintendent Louis Cavallo said he had no regrets about keeping schools open — with the option of parents keeping students home if they wished.
“The decision to open school today was made with the children as the first priority,” Cavallo said on the district Facebook page. “Many children in our community live in households where parents must be at work. Few parents have the option of in-home daycare so children are either left alone or are required to be out in the cold to get to daycare if schools are closed. Given this knowledge, it is in the student’s best interest for us to provide a safe, warm place for students when the roads are passable.”
“I’ve had a lot of emails, as you can imagine,” Cavallo said Monday. “Some of them are thanking me for opening the schools today,” he said.
Cavallo couldn’t give a figure for how many students were in class Monday morning, although teachers on the union website estimated around 73.
“Attendance is not recorded in our system today,” Cavallo said. “Attendance was down, and that’s fine. We gave some parents the option — for those that needed it. For their children, we would be open.”
Cavallo said many students would have to leave home for daycare arrangements anyway.
“Schools are likely closer for most parents to transport their children than to daycare,” Cavallo said on the district’s statement. “We also run buses from each school so no child would have to be outside for longer than to exit a vehicle and enter the school door,” he added. It was not encouraged or recommended for parents to allow their child to walk to school.
Cavallo said he joined school operation staff Sunday night to make sure sidewalks were ploughed and buses were started so engines would be running Monday morning. He said he got to the district shortly after 6 a.m., Monday, to make sure everything was running smoothly.
Some teachers and staff didn’t show up, he said. “They took a personal day or they had car trouble.”
“We work inside,” he continued. “We expect our staff to be here. The only thing that would put our staff in danger is if there was snow on the roads, and the roads were clear.”
“For those parents that can stay home with their children on days like today, they are encouraged to do so without the absence affecting the children’s attendance record,” Cavallo’s statement said.