Inclement Weather FAQs
How does our district determine whether school is cancelled, delayed or held on normal schedules?
- Closing school or changing the school schedule is not a decision that we take lightly. We understand the disruption it can cause a family, such as altering a parent’s work schedule or causing parents to make last-minute arrangements for childcare. It is important to remember that we are responsible for the safety of more than 10,000 students, families and commuting staff. 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. Our district is one of the largest geographically in Snohomish County. It covers 128 square miles. Our buses travel about 4,000 miles each day getting our students to and from school. It’s also important to remember that although main thoroughfares, such as Highway 9, Cathcart Way and Broadway Avenue may be drivable, many of our rural areas and neighborhood roads are not. Experienced staff members in our transportation, maintenance and custodial departments will check the road conditions beginning at about 2-3 a.m., paying very close attention to known problem areas, such as 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 4:45 a.m. because school buses start rolling at about 5:45 a.m. in order to make their morning high school and middle school runs. In addition, many teachers and staff are leaving for work in the early morning hours. Some of our high school students also take zero-hour classes prior to the start of the regular school day.
- 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 also 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 must depend heavily on the forecasts provided to us by the National Weather Service.
- Neighboring school districts - As we determine what to do about school on a given morning, we consult with our counterparts in the Monroe, Everett, Lake Stevens, Mukilteo and Northshore school districts, and they consult with us. Unless there is a weather pattern at work that makes the conditions in one part of Snohomish County different from those in another, you’ll usually see many of our school districts making a similar decision.
- Staff and student drivers - If road conditions are so treacherous that students, families and staff members, such as those living in outlying areas, are not be able to get to school, then that weighs heavily on the decision of whether or not to hold school. In addition, our custodians, kitchen staff, bus drivers and others often start their work day in the early morning hours.
What if the roads are not bad enough to cancel school?
- Many different factors go into the decision about whether or not to cancel school. Given the typical weather patterns in our area, while the roads may seem safe in one neighborhood, it doesn’t mean they will be safe in other areas. Our district is one of the largest geographically in Snohomish County. It covers 128 square miles. If school is canceled, please 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 our best option. We never take canceling school lightly, but we also are responsible for the safety of about 10,000 students, families and commuting staff. We have no choice but to make the best decision we can based on the best information we have available at that time.
Can the decision to cancel school be made earlier so parents and families have more warning?
- Sometimes it can, while other times it cannot. 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 hasn't yet arrived or comes during the night or early morning, it is much more difficult to determine exactly what impact it will have on roads by the time students will travel to school in the morning.
What other events and activities are cancelled?
- If school has been closed for the day, there will be no district busing or transportation available. All evening meetings or functions scheduled to take place in district facilities will be cancelled. A decision will be made by noon on the impacted day regarding the possibility of afternoon district- and school-sponsored activities and practices.
When school is cancelled, when are the days made up?
- While many students, staff and families may enjoy the unexpected day off, the day will have to be made up sometime later in the year. State law requires students to attend school for 180 calendar days. Days canceled by weather must be added to the calendar. The decision for scheduling the added days is made in a joint effort by school district administrators and the bargaining groups that represent school employees. When this year’s calendar (2019-2020) was developed, we set aside the days after the last day of school as potential snow make-up days.