With frigid Pekin temperatures being the norm lately, people involved with Pekin schools recently explained the guidelines for canceling school and what can be done to help students lacking sufficient winter clothes.

Both superintendents from Pekin Public Schools District 108 and Pekin Community High School District 303 have issued statements regarding guidelines for school cancellation.

“In the case of cold weather, the guidelines and recommendations for wind chill provided by the National Weather Service serve as our point of reference,” wrote District 108 Superintendent Bill Link in a Jan. 25 letter. “Based on (weather service) guidelines, we will typically cancel school when the wind chill is confirmed to be sustained at -25 (degrees Fahrenheit) or lower. As temperatures begin to dip between -20 to -25, we begin to take into account other factors, as well."

Those factors, he said, could be wind speed, road conditions, precipitation, condition of school grounds, and the short term forecast.

"We know parents will do their best to make sure students are dressed appropriately when the wind chill drops to these frigid levels," he said. "We always respect a parent’s choice to keep their child at home if they are not comfortable with the weather situation on any given day. The absence will be excused if a parent contacts the school and makes them aware of their child’s status.”

In a statement to parents issued by Danielle Owens, superintendent of Pekin Community High School District 303, Owens said the issue of canceling school is always taken seriously with the safety of students as the focus.

“A wind chill factor of -25 has always been our general target for canceling school,” she said in the statement. “If (temperatures) are between -20 and -25, there is leeway depending on any other variables that come into play ... We know our parents share our concern for their children and do their best to make certain their children are dressed appropriately when wind chills drop to this level.

"Our bus drivers also know that students may not be waiting outside quite as long on these days. We would encourage our parents to talk to their students about not wearing shorts and also wearing coats the next few days. While (students) are obviously comfortable in our classrooms once they arrive to school, a mechanical issue with their car or bus could put them in a dangerous situation with our upcoming forecasted lows. If there are any needs for winter clothing for your student, please call their counselor, and we will make sure to get them what they need.”

City Manager Mark Rothert said on Monday that no grade school bus drivers have told him of any children not dressed appropriately for the winter weather.

There are organizations that are lending a helping hand because of the frigid weather. PCHS has the Dragon’s Closet, a place in the G-building for high school students to go and get clothing items or toiletries that they need. The Dragon’s Closet is stocked through donations and currently winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves are being accepted. 

Also, Miss Marigold Dakota Richmond and Miss Central Illinois’ Outstanding Teen Elisabeth Sandoval teamed up to form Crowns for Coats after Sandoval noticed it fit with Richmond's Take What You Need initiative at PCHS. A few days ago they posted on Facebook to get the word out that the Dragon’s Closet was in need of winter clothes.

“Crowns for Coats is a program run by Dakota and myself, with the purpose of raising awareness for students in need of winter items, as well as collecting winter necessities to be distributed to Pekin students in need, including the Dragon’s Closet at Pekin Community High School," Sandoval said. "People who want to help out can donate directly to the Dragon’s Closet, or contact Dakota or myself to arrange donation drop-offs. We’re looking for items in usable condition for students of all ages, as well as monetary donations for the Dragon’s Closet, which provides many other necessities to PCHS students in addition to winter clothes.”

Donations may be dropped off at the principal’s office at PCHS during school hours: 7:50 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“So many students in Pekin live below the poverty line and may not have the means to afford warm clothes for the winter," Richmond said. "With extreme temperatures coming up, I couldn’t stop feeling like I needed to do something to help this situation. Students shouldn’t have to sacrifice their health and safety for an education. They should be able to go to school warm. Our project does include donations for the Dragon’s Closet at the high school, but we will also accept donations for the local elementary, junior high, and primary schools. This is a problem prevalent all across our community, and we want to help everywhere we can.”

District 108 has been collecting winter items since November.

“There is a local organization called Moms Who Care that helps set up a ‘closet’ at our junior high schools,” said Bill Link. “Another example is that in early November, Trinity Lutheran Church provided coats, hats and gloves to our students in preparation for the winter. I believe this year they provided around 225 coats to our students across all grades. If someone wanted to donate winter wear items, they can contact one (of) their favorite schools. For example, my wife just dropped off 10 bags (of) junior high sized clothing items to Broadmoor (Junior High School). I am not aware of any major needs right now, but our schools will certainly accept donations in case a need does arise.”