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updated: 1/27/2014 4:37 PM

Oh no, not another school closing, parents moan

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  • Jen and Will Ortman of Arlington Heights, along with thousands of fellow suburban parents, were scrambling Sunday to make child care arrangements after another round of dangerously cold weather led to more school cancellations this week. Their sons, left to right, Nick, 9, Nate, 5, and Max, 9, don't seem to mind too much.

       Jen and Will Ortman of Arlington Heights, along with thousands of fellow suburban parents, were scrambling Sunday to make child care arrangements after another round of dangerously cold weather led to more school cancellations this week. Their sons, left to right, Nick, 9, Nate, 5, and Max, 9, don't seem to mind too much.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 
 

While students hoped for another few days off school this week due to the cold, many parents in the suburbs spent the weekend crossing their fingers that classes wouldn't be canceled again, throwing their work and child care plans into chaos.

The kids' wishes won out Sunday as dozens of suburban school districts called off classes Monday -- and many of them Tuesday, as well -- as the region braced for its second blast of polar air this month, this one expected to send wind chills plummeting toward 50 degrees below zero.

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The closings present headaches for parents, especially after most schools in the area already canceled classes for at least two days earlier this month due to cold weather.

"It's kind of a nightmare for the parents," said Jen Ortman, an Arlington Heights mom with three kids. She and her husband both work, so when schools close she, and many other parents, have to rearrange their schedules at the last minute. "It's been really overwhelming this year with how much time they've had off."

Parents are left having to find a baby sitter, depend on family or take an extra day off work when schools close, which can be both stressful and costly.

For Ortman's youngest child, the local KinderCare program has been helpful since those programs rarely close, but finding care for her two 9-year-olds, both fourth graders at Olive-Mary Stitt Elementary School, can be more difficult.

"You wind up having to bring them to work, which isn't very convenient and it's horrible for the kids too because they are bored out of their minds," Ortman said. "It leaves us scrambling."

During the last cold weather days, Ortman said she had to depend on family to watch the kids and leave work early, but she's hoping it doesn't happen again this week.

"I saw the prediction and the first thing I did was call my husband and say 'What are we going to do?'" she said.

If parents can take time off to stay home with the kids, dangerous or cold weather often keeps them from going outside, leaving them looking for activities to keep the kids occupied inside all day.

Mia Tischer, executive director of LearningRx Chicago Naperville, had a few suggestions of fun activities to do indoors.

She suggests sending kids on a scavenger hunt around the house, creating a collage out of old magazines, writing and coloring their own story book, playing dress up or baking as some free and fun indoor activities to keep the kids busy.

Cancellations aren't just difficult on parents, but cause rearranging for school districts as well.

Some districts, including Mundelein Elementary District 79, Libertyville Elementary District 70 and Northwest Suburban High School District 214, have five emergency days built into the calendar.

"(We) do not take canceling school lightly," said Robin Kollman, spokeswoman for District 70. "Our first consideration is always the safety of our students and our staff during extreme weather such as severe snowstorms, record-setting low temperatures, etcetera."

The District 70 school year has been extended to June 4 instead of June 2, midterm and report card releases have been moved and the middle school graduation date in the district has been bumped as well, Kollman said.

Even Stevenson District 125, where an official pledged Friday that school will be in session Monday no matter what, decided Sunday to cancel classes at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire because of the frigid weather.

Schools often make the choice to close because of the number of students who walk or would be standing outside in dangerous temperatures waiting for buses, officials said.

But not all parents agree.

"If the school is functioning and the heat is working, it's better for everyone involved for them to be at school instead of stuck at home," Ortman said.

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