After intermittent snowfall Feb. 3-4, all but one of Jefferson County’s school districts canceled all classes and after-school activities for Feb. 4.
The Port Townsend, Chimacum and Quilcene school districts canceled school by Monday morning, while the Brinnon School District instead announced a two-hour delay to the start of the school day.
Port Townsend Schools Superintendent John Polm said his district relies on weather reports, “as well as our own visuals when driving our district roads,” to make decisions on late starts or cancellations.
“We take into consideration what other districts around us are planning, but overall, we work with our maintenance department and district leaders to assess the situation,” Polm said. “Our concern is for the safety of our students, staff and community.”
Polm said that, in the case of this snowfall, “We knew that the weather was likely to persist in terms of wind, snow and cold temperatures throughout the day (Feb. 4), so it made sense to go ahead and cancel (Feb. 3).”
Polm elaborated that the district uses a group-calling system to notify staff and families, in addition to posting a notification on its website.
“We notify the local news outlets for local radio and TV,” Polm said.
Chimacum Schools Superintendent Rick Thompson agreed with Polm.
“We look at multiple forecasts, drive the roads, confer about conditions in different parts of the district, then make a decision as best we can,” Thompson said. “Safety is paramount. In this county, the bus transportation can be impacted by black ice in addition to snow.”
The Chimacum School District uses email to notify staff, and Facebook and the district’s website to notify parents.
“We also use a service called flash alert, which gets the message into the Seattle TV stations,” Thompson said.
Quilcene School Superintendent Frank Redmon said he began working with his district’s transportation director on Feb. 3 to assess the situation.
“We split up the roads between us,” Redmon said. “A couple of bus drivers took part as well, because that’s a lot of roads to cover, from Coyle to Highway 101 and Center Road.”
After driving the roads starting at 6 p.m. Feb. 3, Redmon met with the transportation director and bus drivers to share their assessments so he could make his decision by 8 p.m.
“At that time, we were at least going to do a delayed start,” Redmon said. “But when we drove over similar spots that morning to what we covered last night, we made the call to cancel. Our metric is whether the condition of the roads is safe for parents and buses.”
Redmon planned to drive the roads alongside his transportation director and bus drivers later in the day Feb. 4 to reassess their condition.
Brinnon School Superintendent Patricia Beathard employed a similar approach to Redmon, although she arrived at a different conclusion.
“My transportation director and I just split up the district between us and hit the roads,” said Beathard, whose morning drive Feb. 4 began between 5 and 6 a.m., like Redmon’s. “I’d driven in from Sea-Tac the night before, and there was quite bit of snow along the way, but it let up by the time I got to Brinnon.”
Neither Beathard nor her transportation director noticed any patches of ice.
“It was dry and bare,” Beathard said. “We even passed the salt and sand trucks at a few points. I know there have been cancellations up north, but we’re not the only district to stay open to the south.”
Because of the weather forecasts, all four school districts planned to be open Feb. 5.
Port Townsend and Chimacum’s makeup day is Feb. 15, while Quilcene’s is May 24.