Have you ever wondered why some days snow on the ground means no school, while others there’s only a two-hour delay? Who makes those decisions, anyway? And hey, there’s snow in the forecast for next week — does that mean no school?
We talked to Mrs. Stevens at the District Office and asked about the process of determining whether or not school gets cancelled. Read on to learn more!
Alright Mrs. Stevens, walk us through a basic timeline of the decision to cancel or delay school. Why do we get the phone call so early in the morning? Why not the night before?
Very rarely do we make the call the night before because conditions change too rapidly. By 4:30 a.m. I’m making calls to community members located in the outmost areas of our district to gather information about conditions. At the same time, the bus barn is sending drivers out from about 4:15 to 5:15 to gauge the road conditions and how those may impact the buses.
Wow, 4:15 to 5:15? How early do buses start on normal school days?
On a normal day, we have drivers leaving the bus barn to begin their routes around 5:40 a.m., so on a snow day we have to make decisions early and quickly. While this is going on, I’m also on the computer looking at NOAA, weather forecasts, and communicating with other districts on what their decisions may be. By 5:30 a.m., I call Superintendent Andy Bellando with the report and recommendations for either delays or full closure. Often we will start with the delay hoping that the weather and conditions will improve as the morning progresses. By 5:45 Mr. Bellando has decided on the call, and sets up the automated notification system. He has also posted the district’s status to our media outlets and our communications director posts on social media.
What are the most important considerations when deciding whether or not we should cancel or delay school?
Safety is always the most important consideration. Because our district has so many different school sites, it’s difficult to make one decision with regard to weather for the whole district, and it’s important for the public to keep that in mind. Often, in-town schools will have no issues, while for students attending Victor Point or Silver Crest, conditions may be significantly different.
And that affects the high school students who live in those areas too, right?
Exactly. Their journey to school needs to be as safe as possible.
If we don’t have a snow day, but parents feel like the conditions where they are would be unsafe, they can always keep their students home anyway, right?
Yes. That’s always an excused absence — parents always have the final say when it comes to the safety of their children on inclement weather days. We ask that they let the schools know as soon as possible if they’re going to keep students home, of course.
Okay, changing gears a little bit here… we get questions sometimes about making up snow days. Why do we sometimes make them up and sometimes we don’t?
The district is committed to maintaining instructional time. It has been our practice that if we miss more than one instructional day, to consider the calendar and see if we have days we can convert from non-instructional days to instructional ones. For example, at the end of April we usually have a day off for students, and for teachers that contract day is used for professional development and planning. That day in April has been used to reschedule a snow day in order to recover lost instructional time. We try to avoid extending the school year in June because many families have other commitments they are unable to change once we get beyond June 14th or so. At times, while we may not add instructional time back, we do ask the teachers to return and we use that time for additional professional development and task completion.
Interesting! Before we go, can you think of anything else that might be interesting for our community members on snow days?
Please know that we make every possible effort to get the call right. The decisions we make are based on safety for all of our students and staff. It’s nerve-wracking to know that our decisions can be very disruptive to everyone’s schedule and we don’t want to get it wrong. Two years ago we had several snow days, but the day that stands out the most was when we cancelled the field trips to OSU and up to Portland because of the forecasts. Students were very disappointed which is never my goal. Then, the snow started to fall and we closed schools early. We had everyone headed home by 1:30 that day. Other districts did not make those calls and at 10:30 in the evening were still trying to get their students home.
Thank you so much for your time, Mrs. Stevens. We hope readers found this behind-the-scenes look at this important decision enlightening. While you’re thinking about it, have you looked at the snow routes for your student’s bus? Check it out on the bus routes page of the district website!