Schools Update: Snow Days – Bane of a Superintendent’s Many Duties

At a recent superintendents meeting the subject of snow days came up and from the comments and stories, it was obvious that the responsibility to make the decision about whether or not to hold school because of weather is among the least enjoyed duties of a superintendent. Stories were told of driving in the early hours of the morning and of the percentage of the district that is in the hills and mountains. And invariably, no matter what the decision, whether to delay, close, or stay with a regular schedule, someone is going to be unhappy.

I feel very lucky however to be in Vernonia and to have Curl’s School Bus Services taking care of this portion of our business. When there is potential for a closure I get a call from Rob Curl, who personally comes out from Hillsboro about 4 AM to begin driving our worst routes. Shelley Hennessy also is out early in the morning checking other routes so by the time I get a call at 5:30 AM, they have a fairly clear picture of what the roads in our district look like. Rob also uses a network of truck drivers working in the area to gather information where possible as well. There have been times when I have gone out myself to check things out, but I have learned to trust Rob and his crew to have the best information.

I will also check various weather sites to determine how quick it will warm up, or begin to freeze or when the rain will arrive. This provides me with additional information when Rob and I discuss the road conditions when he calls. Based on the information I have at the time and Rob’s recommendations we move forward and I notify the news media and make the call.

NOTE: If you would be interested in getting a text at the same time the news media does you can sign up with the FlashAlert service that the district uses. Information on how to sign up is located on our website. Just click on the ‘Parent Resources’ tab, and then click on ‘Transportation – Weather/Snow Routes’ menu item.

We will be working with Curl’s to determine some alternative Snow Routes. Once they have been determined we will be notifying parents and they will be posted on our website as mentioned above.

Finally, I want to point out that it is always your choice as parents whether you feel it is safe to send your children to school or not. Their safety and that of staff members is our primary concern when making these decisions. They are not made lightly and are never made just to meet some attendance criteria. Our number of student contact days are limited this year and we want to do everything we can to keep them where they are, but that does not enter into my making these decisions.

Finally, just to keep everyone in the loop, I made a recommendation to the School Board at our January 9th meeting about when we will make-up the days that we have missed due to snow.   The School Board approved adding back in February 14 and March 14 as make -up days.  As always – the public is always welcome at School Board meetings.