January 2015
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The "cold" truth about closing schools due to extreme temperatures


One of the most challenging decisions a superintendent has to make is to close school due to inclement weather.  This is not a decision made lightly and only after serious consideration and extensive consultation.  Closing schools due to extreme temperatures is often times the least understood and most criticized decision. I want to take a moment to discuss the process for inclement weather closings in an attempt to take away some of the mystery behind these important determinations.


First and foremost, we consider the safety of our students.  In Palos 118, the vast majority of students ride the bus to school daily.  We begin our decision-making process by examining multiple weather reports days in advance, and scrutinizing forecasted temperatures and wind chill factors to determine if students waiting for school buses will be at significant risk for frostbite or hypothermia.  We also examine any warnings and/or advisories issued by the National Weather Service. In our analysis, we consider the needs of both students we know will be dressed appropriately for the cold weather, and those students we fear will not.  There is no bright line rule for freezing temperatures or extreme wind chill factors used to decide whether to close school.  The decision to close is a day-to-day decision dependent upon changing forecasts.


When considering closing schools, we also analyze road conditions and the probability that our buses will run on schedule so riders are not left waiting in the cold for an extended period of time.  As for our school buses themselves, we begin in December to prepare them for the cold weather by adding a cold weather additive to the fuel, and plugging the buses into electrical outlets at night to prevent fuel line freezes.  Our buses have proven to be extremely reliable in bitterly cold temperatures.  We also consider the safety of our students once they arrive at school, and ensure that each building is properly heated.


If the decision to close is made, we realize many families will need to make alternative arrangements for their children.  That is why we attempt to make the decision to open or close as early as possible so families have adequate time to prepare and procure appropriate childcare. 


Throughout my letter, you might have noticed I keep using "we" instead of "I" when discussing the decision to close schools.  That's because this important decision is not made in isolation.  In making the decision to open or close schools, I consult with a number of other administrators and department heads in 118, as well as superintendents from surrounding school districts; chief among them District 230 and the five other elementary school districts that feed into District 230. 


Ultimately however, the final judgment to open or close schools is mine.  Although you may or may not agree with my decision, please keep in mind your child's safety and education are my highest priority.  And as always, you have the final say on whether or not to send your child to school during inclement weather.  I respect any parent's decision to keep their child home on inclement weather days if they are concerned with their child's safety and security.


I hope this takes some of the mystery out of the decision to close schools due to extreme temperatures.  For the record like many of you, I too walked to school as a child.  I'd like to think my route to school was uphill both ways, and that I walked to school regardless of the temperature outside, but I know that wasn't the case.  In reality, I was fortunate to have both caring parents and a school district looking out for my best interests.


Warmest regards,


Anthony M. Scarsella,

Superintendent of Schools


Make Up Days: 

Due to the use of two snow days this month, school will be in session on Pulaski Day, March 2.  Also, one additional day was added to the end of the school year.  Therefore, barring any future snow days, the last day of school will be June 3.  The last day for kindergarten, EC, and Pre-K will be June 1 and records day will be June 2.  There is no change to the graduation date of June 1.

Kindergarten & New Student Registration:

Beginning January 21, parents of incoming kindergarteners will be able to start the registration process by going to our website and clicking on student registration. Visit your child's school during the week of February 2-6 to complete the enrollment process and bring all registration documents (see below) at that time. Parents are also encouraged to call their child's school to schedule an appointment for Kindergarten Visitation Day on February 6. Palos West: 708-448-6888, Palos East: 708-448-1084.

Palos 118's Amazing Athletes
Boys Softball

Girls Softball

Boys Cross Country

Girls Cross Country

*Volleyball and basketball team photos will be highlighted in a future econnect soon.
People You Should Know...
Palos 118 Transportation Mechanic
Caleb Stockman


Mr. Stockman has been keeping District 118's fleet of 25 buses safe, reliable, and functional since 2009.  His many responsibilities encompass oil changes, brakes, engine repair, tire replacement, and bi-annual safety inspections. He prides himself on the district's superior fleet of buses compared to those of surrounding districts and bus companies. Mr. Stockman and his wife will be celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary in July and have a one-year-old son who keeps them both on their toes. When not working, Mr. Stockman spends much of his time volunteering for a local church he attends and helps with their youth group and lending his mechanical expertise to their buses and vans. He also enjoys outdoor activities such as mountain biking and climbing. He has scaled Pikes Peak, Mt. Whitney, Longs Peak, Mt. Evans, Middle Teton, and Half-Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Currently Reading: "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand

As we move through the mid-point of the school year, it's a great time to discuss assessment.  After all, we want to ensure that our students are learning, and even more importantly, that we are developing the skills and content knowledge that will make them highly successful in a competitive world. 


This school year, public school districts in Illinois will continue to be required to assess students for the purpose of educational accountability as mandated by the United States Department of Education.  The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Assessments have been designed to replace the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT).  Specifically, the PARCC Assessment will measure student proficiency relative to the Common Core State Standards as adopted by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2010.


This year's PARCC Assessments will be administered via computer-based format.  Students in grades 3-8 will take the PARCC Assessment in the subject areas of English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. The PARCC Assessment will be administered during two windows within this school year.  Specifically, these windows correspond to administration of the PARCC Performance-Based Assessment (PBA) and the End-of-Year Assessment (EOY).


Palos School District 118 will be administering these assessments during the date ranges shown below.  Due to the fact that these tests are administered via computer, test windows appear long, but in general, student participation will consist of one test each morning for a week-long period during each session.  The testing week will vary based upon grade level.  More information will be available in February as the schools will be posting schedules for parents to view once they are finalized so that you are aware of the specific dates that your child will be testing.  


PARCC Performance-Based Assessment (PBA) March 9 - April 2, 2015

PARCC End-of-Year Assessment (EOY) April 27 - May 22, 2015


Like most standardized assessments, PARCC is not a test that you study for, but there are ways that we can help children feel more prepared.   All District 118 staff is trained on how to navigate through the online PARCC practice exams, and in turn, the staff is showing the children.  It is important that students are comfortable with the online format so that they receive results that accurately measure what they have learned.  With PARCC being new, this is a process that will improve with each passing year.  Additionally, students have been or will be taking the PARCC practice tests during school.  Once again, our goal is to make sure that they are comfortable with the online tools and question formats before assessing their learning. 


As for parents, I encourage you to take a look at the PARCC practice tests so that you can talk to your child(ren) about them.  Some of the more prominent differences between the ISAT and PARCC tests are the changes in question format and the increased level of rigor.  As you explore these "next generation" assessments, you should be able to get a good understanding of how standardized tests are changing.  Just keep in mind, with all changes there is a need for transition.  You can reassure your child and ease apprehension by simply reminding them to do their best.  


Additional information concerning the PARCC Assessment including test format, sample test items, and notes about scoring is available online.   For more information on the Common Core Standards and links to PARCC resources, visit our "Exploring the Core" Parent Resource Page

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