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Many suburban districts, colleges announce closures

Prolonged subzero temperatures across the region have prompted city and suburban schools to close rather than force parents, students and teachers through the cold authorities are warning people against.

The temperatures - 9 degrees below zero Monday morning at O'Hare - are causing major public transportation problems and have shut down roads in Northwest Indiana.

Joining school districts across the region, Chicago Public Schools decided late Sunday afternoon to close all city schools Monday because of the threat of dangerously cold temperatures and high winds.

According to a news release from the district, the district made the decision after determining that it would be "dangerously cold" for children to be going to and from school in temperatures that are expected to be below-zero all day with high winds resulting in wind chills that are even colder.

"The safety and well-being of our students is paramount," said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in the statement. "Given, the dangerously cold temperatures and high-winds, it is in the best interest of our students for schools to be closed on Monday."

In the news release, the district, which has 400,000 students, said it will be contacting parents via robo-calls, email, and the media and that parents can call (773) 553-3100 or go to the CPS website for more information. All after-school and sports activities have also been cancelled.

Building engineers and CPS exempt staff will be at work tomorrow, the release said, and classes are expected to resume Tuesday, though the district will continue to watch the weather and will make a final decision Monday.

The Chicago Teachers Union had earlier criticized the decision by CPS to open schools Monday with Michael Harrington, director of operations for the teachers' union, saying union leadership had heard from "dozens and dozens and dozens" of teachers worried about students not having adequate clothing to stay warm during the subzero temperatures and extreme wind chill.

"They run out of scarfs, they run out of gloves – kids are not prepared for this weather," Harrington said before the decision to close the schools. "Teachers are already doing their best to keep them warm."

School officials in Deerfield, Highland Park, Romeoville, Batavia and many other Chicago suburbs had already decided to close all district schools on Monday.

"The National Weather Service has indicated that any outside activity will be dangerous," southwest suburban Valley View Community Unit School District 365U Superintendent James Mitchem said in a statement Sunday. "With roughly 11,000 children waiting for buses in this district and thousands of others walking to school every day, I cannot, in good conscience, put even one child at risk when the missed day can easily be made up at the end of the school year."

Several other suburban school districts announced this afternoon they too would close up shop Monday.

New Trier High School District 203 will not be in session on Monday and cancelled all practices and actitivites on the campus. District 214 in the northwest suburbs is also closed, along with District 203 in Naperville, District 41 in Glen Ellyn

Evanston Township High School also announced that it's canceling classes on Monday for its nearly 3,000 students. Evanston/Skokie School District 65 had already announced on its website there will be no classes on Monday due to "extremely low temperatures" in the forecast.

All Catholic elementary schools in Cook and Lake counties will also be closed Monday due to the weather, the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office of Catholic Schools announced Sunday afternoon. Catholic high schools are making their decisions individually due to governance issues, according to a statement from the office.

Northwestern University will also be closed because of severe weather, officials said today. All classes will be canceled and libraries and offices will be closed on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses, officials said. All classes were cancelled at the University of Chicago, including the laboratory schools and all four campuses.

While the city Colleges of Chicago said they were closing, the seven main City College campuses: Daley College, Harold Washington College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Truman College, and Wright College will serve as warming centers.

Over the border in South Bend, Ind., Notre Dame also announced today that the school would be closed tomorrow.

A full list of school closings is available on the WGN Radio Emergency Closing Center.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com | Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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