How Schools Decide Whether Or Not To Close Due To Weather

February 3, 2019

Everett Schools

Thought you might find this interesting. Here’s how the Mukilteo School District decides on school closures.

snow

HOW DOES THE SCHOOL DISTRICT DETERMINE WHETHER SCHOOL IS CANCELED, DELAYED, OR HELD ON THE NORMAL SCHEDULE?

Closing school or changing the school schedule is a decision that we take seriously. We understand the disruption it can cause the families of both our students and our staff members. The easy decision would be to not change anything. But, at the same time, we’re also aware that we’re responsible for the safety of more than 15,000 children. All of them need to be able to travel to school and home again as safely as possible.

A number of factors help school district officials determine if school will be canceled on a given day, whether the school buses will run late or on limited transportation routes, or whether school will be held at the normal time.

Road Conditions: The biggest factor is the condition of the roads that will be used by the school buses. Experienced staff members in our Transportation Department will check the road conditions beginning at about 3 o’clock in the morning, paying particular attention to hilly or shaded areas where ice and snow have caused poor road conditions in the past. Those experts then get together, share notes, and make a recommendation to the superintendent whether the roads are safe enough for school buses that morning. That decision needs to be made at about 5 a.m. because school buses start rolling at about 6 a.m. in order to make their morning high school runs.

Weather Forecast: Those of us living in the Puget Sound Convergence Zone know the difficulty of predicting with certainty if snow will fall, when it will fall, and how much will fall. It’s particularly difficult to determine what to do about school when a snowstorm hits the area in the morning. Sometimes the road conditions are fine at about 4 a.m., but become dangerous by 7 a.m. At other times, the reverse might happen. In the end, however, we have to depend heavily on the forecasts provided to us by the National Weather Service.

Temperature: Is it too cold for young students to be standing outside waiting for the school bus?

Neighboring School Districts: As we determine what to do about school on a given morning, we consult with our counterparts in the Edmonds and Everett school districts, and they consult with us. Unless there is a weather pattern at work that makes the conditions in one part of South Snohomish County vastly different from those in another, all three of our school districts will typically do the same thing.

Staff and Student Drivers: Our school buses, with their sanders and extra traction, will often be able to navigate roads easier than many private vehicles. If road conditions are so treacherous that staff members will not be able to get to work or if it’s too dangerous for student drivers to be on the road, then that will weigh heavily on the decision of whether or not to hold school.

CAN THE DECISION TO CANCEL SCHOOL BE MADE EARLIER SO PARENTS HAVE MORE WARNING?

Sometimes it can. When a storm has already come and when the weather forecast indicates that conditions are not going to change by the following day, the announcement for canceling school often can be made the day before. When the snow comes during the night or early morning, however, it’s harder to determine exactly what impact it will have on roads by the time students will travel to school in the morning.

IF SCHOOL IS CANCELED, WHAT OTHER EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES ARE CANCELED?

Whenever school is canceled, all other school events and activities also are canceled. That includes any scheduled sports contests, team practices, and after-school meetings. Classes at the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center also will be canceled. Information about the rescheduling of specific events will be made available in the coming days.

IF SCHOOL IS CANCELED, WHEN WILL THE SCHOOL DAY BE MADE UP?

Students and staff members will no doubt enjoy the unexpected vacation from school, but that day will have to be made up later in the year. Because state law requires students to attend school for 180 days, days canceled by weather will have to be added to the calendar.

The decision for scheduling the added days is made in a joint effort by school district administrators and the three unions that represent school employees. When this year’s calendar was developed, we set aside Wednesday, June 19 and Thursday, June 20 as potential snow make-up days. If more than two days are canceled, additional days would likely be added to the end of the school year.

WHAT DETERMINES IF SCHOOL IS STARTED LATE RATHER THAN CANCELED?

After our Transportation Department staff members check the roads in the morning and consider the weather forecast, they will recommend a late start if it’s apparent that road conditions probably will improve once the sun comes up and road crews will have a chance to clear snow and ice from the main streets. A delayed start allows time for the roads to improve before the school buses start transporting students and allows staff members and students more time to safely get to school.

IF SCHOOLS START LATE, WHAT DOES THAT ALSO MEAN?

When schools start late, it also means that morning preschool classes will be canceled, that zero-period classes will be canceled, morning CBTC classes will be canceled, that morning classes at the Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center will be canceled, and that ECEAP classes will be canceled. Afternoon and evening events and activities may be held as scheduled, however. Information about the status of those events will be announced later in the day.

WHY DO BUSES OPERATE ON LIMITED-TRANSPORTATION ROUTES?

While school buses may have no problem navigating the main streets, they could have greater challenges operating on side streets, in heavily wooded areas, and on streets that are in hilly places. Consequently, when the school buses go on limited-transportation routes, they will avoid those hard-to-reach areas. A School Bus Limited Transportation Bulletin is handed out bus riders each year to provide specific information about the pick-up and drop-off locations when alternative bus routes are being used. If your neighborhood is not mentioned in the Bulletin, it means that you will catch the bus at its normal stop. Out-of-district transportation also will not be available. Here’s more about Limited Transportation Routes.

WHEN BUSES OPERATE ON LIMITED-TRANSPORTATION ROUTES, DO THEY OPERATE ON THOSE ROUTES ALL DAY?

Yes. If the school buses operate on limited-transportation routes, it almost always means that the buses will continue to operate on those routes all day. That means students will be dropped off at the alternate bus stops and not at the normal bus stops.

SOMETMES IT SEEMS THAT SCHOOL IS CANCELED WHEN THE ROADS AREN’T THAT BAD, OR SOMETIMES SCHOOL IS HELD WHEN ROADS SEEM HAZARDOUS. WHY DOES THAT HAPPEN?

Many different factors go into the decision about whether or not to cancel school. Does everybody agree with that decision? Hardly ever. But, we have no choice but to make the best decision we can based on the best information we have available at that time. We don’t take the decision lightly. We are responsible for the safety of more than 15,000 of somebody else’s children. Consequently, when the weather turns bad and it comes to a decision on whether or not to hold school, we will always err on the side of being safe.

Given the typical weather patterns in the Mukilteo/South Everett area, while the roads may seem safe in one neighborhood, it doesn’t mean they will be safe in other areas. If school is canceled, you can be assured that the road conditions somewhere else or the weather forecast that we had at 5 a.m. was such that canceling school seemed to be the best option.

If school is being held or delayed, it indicates that we are confident that the main streets will be safe for travel and that road conditions will improve to the point that students can be transported safely later in the day. If you disagree and believe the roads are too dangerous, then please consider keeping your child home from school. If you typically drive your child to school or if your child drives him- or herself to school, you also might consider walking your child to school or having your child ride the school bus. Because school buses have sanders and extra traction, they are often able to navigate icy roads better than most cars.

WHAT IF IT SNOWS AFTER CLASSES HAVE STARTED? CAN SCHOOL BE DISMISSED EARLY BECAUSE OF SNOW?

Yes, it has happened. Conditions may develop during the school day that may require school to be dismissed earlier than planned. Information about early dismissals will be provided to local radio and television stations. If school is dismissed early, and transportation home is not available, a child will be released only to his or her parent or guardian or to a person previously authorized by the parent or guardian. School staff will remain at the school until all students have been released.

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET INFORMATION ABOUT SCHOOL CLOSURES OR DELAYS?

If you feel the weather is questionable, there are several things you can do to find out whether Mukilteo schools are starting late or closed on a particular school day:

Blackboard Connect:

The school district uses a system called Blackboard Connect to send important messages to parents via telephone, text, and email. This automated system uses the contact information that is listed in your child’s student records. Using the Blackboard Connect Portal, you can select whether you want to receive school closure or delay notifications by text or email, or both. (Because of the early hour when they are issued, we do not send such notices by telephone.) To change your settings, go to the Blackboard Connect Portal. If you have not registered for a Blackboard Connect account, you’ll find detailed instructions by using the “Quick Start Guide” that you’ll find on the left of the welcome page.

Listserv:

A message will sent by email to all subscribers of the school district ListServ as soon as a decision has been made regarding the cancelation or delayed start of school. If you would like to become a subscriber, go to the ListServ signup page. Click the box labeled “Mukilteo School District Information,” (also click on other boxes that may apply to you), enter your name and email address at the bottom of the page, and click on the “Subscribe” button. You will automatically receive an email that will ask you to confirm your subscription.

Listen to Local Radio and Television Stations:

Listen in the early morning and throughout the day if the road conditions are questionable. Here are a few radio stations that provide regular reports: KRKO (1380 AM), KOMO (1000 AM) or KIRO-FM (97.3 FM). As for TV stations, watch the morning news on KOMO (Channel 4), KING (Channel 5), KIRO (Channel 7), or KCPQ (Channel 13).

Call the 24-Hour Hotline:

Call the Mukilteo School District’s Emergency Information Line at 425-356-1299. The message will normally be updated by 5:30 a.m.

Check the FlashAlert Website:

The status of all local schools is listed each morning on the FlashAlert website. You can access information posted onto FlashAlert by the Mukilteo School District.

Get A Text Message From Other Services:

FlashAlert and most radio and television stations offer services that will send you a text message in the event of a school closure or delay.

WHAT IF THERE IS NO ANNOUNCEMENT OF SCHOOL CLOSURES OR DELAYS?

It means school will open at the normal time and school buses will operate on their normal routes.



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My Everett News is a hyperlocal news website featuring breaking news and events in Everett, WA. We also cover City of Everett information and items of interest to those who live and work in Everett. It's written by Leland Dart a former Snohomish County based radio reporter born and raised in Everett.

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