When the snow sticks and the ice forms, like it did this weekend in many parts of Central Oregon, it’s up to local school districts to decide when enough is enough.
They keep an eye on weather forecasts throughout the winter months, and if snow or ice is expected on a certain day, the review process starts early.
“We would start checking roads about three or four in the morning, and then we make a decision by 5 a.m.,” Bend-La Pine Schools Director of Transportation Kim Crabtree said. “There’s a team of us that drive clear to La Pine, as far south as our district goes and as far north as our district goes.”
The Redmond and Crook County school districts have similar procedures.
“We try to make that decision by 5 a.m…the reason we would do a late start is if we had a lot of snow and ice overnight but conditions are expected to improve,” Redmond Schools Public Information Officer Sheila Miller said. “We would do a cancellation if the roads were really bad and we didn’t expect that it was going to warm up enough for them to improve.”
“If some of our bus drivers go out and they determine the roads are too slick, there’s areas that are unsafe, especially further out of town around higher elevations such as Juniper Canyon for example, the decision may be made to cancel school,” Crook County School District Communications Director Jason Carr said.
Each district gets the word out a little differently.
“Parents can sign up for BLConnect, the link to sign up for that is on our website,” Crabtree said. “They can check the Bend-La Pine website itself, the Bend-La Pine Facebook page, and if you have a My Stop app downloaded if you’re a bus rider, we can send information out there if the bus is going to be delayed.”
Parents can check the “Inclement Weather” section of the school district’s website for a full list of resources and steps to take if they are concerned there may be a delay or a closure.
This year, they have a new map of altered snow routes available for parents.
“It doesn’t affect a lot of routes in our district, but we have a handful of areas where we have reduced stops and we ask kids to walk out because it’s not safe for our bus to go down,” Crabtree said.
The Redmond School District gets the word out through a variety of mediums.
“We call all of the local media, so TV, radio, newspaper…we post it to our social media, and we also do a text, email and auto-dial phone call to all of our families,” Miller said. “So we really ask that all of our families make sure that they have all of their most updated contact information with the district so they actually get that message.”
Miller said she gets a lot of questions every year when there is snow on the ground, but no word from the district.
“If you don’t hear anything, there’s definitely school,” she said.
You can find out more on the “Emergency Communications” page on the Redmond School District’s website.
The Crook County School District uses a similar method.
“We will notify parents by 5:30 in the morning, and we will do that via text message, phone call and email to all parents in the district,” Carr said.
“We will also post the information on the district social media sites, and then we’ll also contact local media.”
There are no online classes planned for snow days, but the Crook County School District is launching a program this week called the Parent Toolkit, which is an online resource for students to do schoolwork while at home.
They explain their plan on the “Weather Delay and Closure Information” page of their website.
Since Central Oregon has no shortage of winter weather, local schools try to use delays and cancellations as a last resort.
“We try really hard not to cancel school for weather,” Miller said. “We know that people are pretty well-equipped here and are used to snow and ice.”
“There’s winters where we have snow on the ground for months, so it’s important for us to be ready and able to get those kids to school,” Crabtree said.