FLOOD: How RB decided to close its doors for the day

Streets of York after the attack of the killer cars.

David Monti

Streets of York after the attack of the killer cars.

Rachael Kluba, Staff Reporter

The RB community experienced a flood that began overnight April 17 which forced school to close at 12:15  on Thursday and kept it closed for a full day on Friday. The decision to close early was made at ten o’clock April 18, as school administration determined that to keep school open would be dangerous and non-productive.

“Only a superintendent can cancel school,” said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Skinkis.

In order for a decision to be made with this scale of significance, the police chief, feeder schools, and superintendent need to have a meeting to discuss whether or not canceling school is the best option.

In comparison to the 2008 flood that caused the school to be closed for about a week, this flood did not cause as much damage to the building. Even with the absence of the in-progress renovation that the 2008 school year had, the school this year still took on some water. However, what had a greater impact on the decisions made by Skinkis was the increasing level of water in the Des Plaines River and Salt Creek  and the decreasing access to ways out of the school.

Student Stephanie Oslzewski got out of school early with everyone else and went to work, but she found getting home to be a lot more problematic.

“My whole area was trapped like an island,” she said, “I could not find a way home until midnight.”

Before school opened April 18, river levels were not high enough to cancel school, so Skinkis decided to keep RB open.  However, as the river levels rose, it became more hazardous.  School was closed April 19 due to the limited access to the school with Forest Bridge being closed, 1st Avenue being closed, and the Washington Bridge being closed.

“You don’t want kids walking through standing water,” said Skinkis.

Watch Dr. Skinkis and the School Board on RBTV discussing how the flood was handled at the April 23 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Access to the building seemed to be the determining factor behind Skinkis’ decision. “If the roads stayed open, we would just have closed the locker rooms and still had academic classes,” he said.

As students stayed home Friday, they helped family survey the damages and think about cleaning up.

“Everywhere around me was surrounded with water from the creek,” said student Cynthia Gonzalez.

RB’ is somewhat unique in that the district does not have a bus system, which caused automatic closings and cancellations for most  larger school systems.  Because RB had five hours of instructional time plus lunch before closing April 18, which is part of the reason why the school stayed open until 12:15, students and staff will only have to make up one day of missed attendance instead of two.

Skinkis knew the decision would not be easy.  “Canceling a school day is never a popular decision because you will always have someone on each side of the fence,” he said.

While no decisions have been officially announced, students and staff will need to make up attendance for the cancelled school day.  The day happened so late in the school year that there are no remaining Institute Days that can be used to compensate for the missed day.  This fact led Skinkis and the school board to amend the 2013-14 calendar to include an Institute Day on May 2, rather than the one previously scheduled in February.  This year, the school will likely remain open in some fashion May 27, the day after Memorial Day.

Regardless of the aftermath, watching the flood was humbling for many.  Biology teacher Dave Monti, a Brookfield resident, spent the cancelled day surveying the town and taking pictures of the flood.

“It is nature,” he said, “You cannot beat nature.  There is no stopping water.”

Sponsor’s Note:
Clarion has issued a correction that Dave Monti is a Brookfield resident, not a Riverside resident.  We regret the error.