Office of the Superintendent
November 29, 2023
Snow Days: What to Expect
We understand that the decision to close schools or keep them open in bad weather can have a big impact on families. We also understand that our students are best served, both academically and socially, by being in school. The safety of our students, staff and families is always our top priority.
HOW DO WE MAKE OUR DECISION?
Safety is of the utmost importance, and we continually monitor the weather when snow is predicted or falling. Please understand that we make the decision to open or close schools in bad weather based on a careful analysis of all relevant factors, such as:
- Information on road conditions from transportation staff and other staff that go out and drive certain routes starting at 4 a.m. We give careful consideration to the most dangerous roads in the district. Even if your street looks clear, travel elsewhere in the district may be dangerous. Also, we must consider that some high school students drive to school.
- Amount of snow and/or ice accumulated.
- Whether precipitation is continuing.
- Monitoring of the real-time and forecasted weather continues throughout the morning.
- Building conditions (Do we have electricity and heat?)
- Parking lot conditions. Administrators talk to maintenance and custodial staff members who are responsible for clearing and treating school parking lots and sidewalks.
- Temperature and wind chill. Please remember that some of our students walk to school and some must wait outside for the bus.
- Weather predictions. We prefer not to make our decision based on weather predictions, which are not always accurate. But sometimes it is unavoidable.
- What other school districts are doing? Local districts' superintendents and/or leaders check with each other and find what neighboring districts are doing.
If it is determined that school buses are able to safely transport students on the roads, then school will be in session.
WHO MAKES THE DECISION?
As superintendent, I am responsible for the final decision based on the above factors and recommendations from the Transportation and Maintenance directors as well as consulting with other local superintendents and district staff.
WHEN IS THE DECISION MADE?
I make the decision by 5:30 a.m. or earlier so we can notify radio and TV stations and post the decision on our website. If I wait longer to announce a closing, some parents will have already left for work, leaving their children unsupervised.
WHY DOES THE DISTRICT CALL A 2-HOUR DELAY?
A two-hour delay allows time to further determine if weather and road conditions will improve in time for the safe transportation of our students. During a delay, the Transportation team will continue to drive routes throughout the morning to assess road conditions. If road conditions improve, students are transported at the two-hour delay time. If road conditions worsen or are deemed unsafe for bus transportation, then school is canceled.
HOW ARE FAMILIES AND THE PUBLIC NOTIFIED?
Tune to local TV and radio stations. Information about a delay or school closure is sent first to all parents/guardians and staff via ParentSquare. Please make sure your Skyward account is up to date to ensure you receive these ParentSquare messages. Additionally, delay and closure information will be provided to the media via FlashAlert and posted on our ESD Facebook and website at www.esd401.org. You can also sign up to receive text or email notifications from www.flashalert.net.
WHAT ABOUT NEW TEEN DRIVERS?
If you are the parent of a new or inexperienced driver and you deem weather conditions too challenging for your student, they can ride the bus if they are signed up in advance for bus routing. We encourage you to sign your teen driver up for routing if this is a concern. To sign them up please visit: https://www.esd401.org/departments/transportation
WILL WE CLOSE SCHOOL IF CONDITIONS WORSEN?
Even if weather conditions worsen after school has started, we cannot reverse our decision without endangering students. Once we make the decision to open schools, many parents rely on that information and leave for work. If we then send students right back home, many will return to unsupervised bus stops and empty houses. If conditions get worse during the school day, we may need to have an early dismissal, but we will give adequate notice to all parents first.
WILL A “SNOW DAY” MAKE THE SCHOOL YEAR LONGER?
This year, we have built in one “snow day” within the school calendar. If there is more than one time this year that we need to close schools due to poor road conditions, the school year will be extended.
We work hard to make the best decisions to keep the Ellensburg School District community safe. If you feel that weather conditions are too severe for your student(s) to safely attend school, use your best judgement on whether or not your student(s) will attend. We also ask you to discourage teenagers from driving in bad conditions if at all possible.
I hope this explanation helps everyone understand how we make these difficult decisions in the pre-dawn hours of a snowy morning.
Your Partner in Education,
Superintendent Troy Tornow