By Bob Uphues
When a blizzard hit Chicago on Feb. 1, and increased in intensity as the day drew on, every person of the student persuasion began hoping for that golden phone call.
For students at Riverside-Brookfield High School, Komarek District 94 and Riverside District 96, The Call never came. Instead, they were given an extra 40 minutes to get to school.
But despite Feb. 2 being a school day, many students stayed home anyway. Enough that it was plenty noticeable. And more were allowed to leave the school throughout the day on Feb. 3.
When Bob Skolnik was doing his reporting on student attendance at the schools that made the decision to remain open on Feb. 2, he discovered that in Komarek District 94 and in Riverside District 96, about 60 percent of students made it to class that day.
But the numbers at Riverside-Brookfield High School were more or less anecdotal.
While officials admitted that student attendance was "below normal," they didn't provide any specific figures. One student Skolnik talked to said he figured "about half" of students attended on Feb. 2
So, Skolnik filed a Freedom of Information request to find out exactly what the numbers were. Turns out our student source was pretty darn close in his estimate.
Of the 1,580 students enrolled at RBHS as of Feb. 2, there were 727 absences — that's 46 percent of the student population. Of that number, the school said 510 of those were excused, meaning parents called to inform the school their student would not be attending.
The district also allowed students to leave early on Feb. 2 if parents called to authorize it. The school said it did not have a report on how many RBHS students left throughout the day.
Students weren't the only ones to miss school on Feb. 2.
According to school records, 19 teachers called in either sick or took personal days that day. Their classrooms were staffed with substitutes, who are paid between $18 and $35 per class period. The total cost to the district for subs on Feb. 2 was $2,060, according to the district.