After several parents questioned why school was closed when it was simply raining, the Washougal School District is taking a second look at its snow routes.
With sometimes drastically differing conditions in the outlying areas of the district versus the middle of town, the School Board is contemplating putting changes into place to allow school to be in session more, while keeping children safe on their way to class.
“Over the years, we have had a lot of comments from parents about why school is two hours late or closed when it’s raining,” said Blaine Peterson, School Board president. “So we thought we’d take a look at it and see if there is an equitable solution or if what we are doing currently is the best.”
Superintendent Dawn Tarzian has also heard from frustrated parents as well as staff members.
“A majority of parents in this community find themselves having to go to work and leave their kids at home alone,” she said. “And I will tell you that there are some staff members frustrated by this as well.”
Since staff members are obligated to work all days in their contracts, beginning a summer educational program can prove difficult depending on how many snow make-up days there are, Tarzian added.
The primary issue driving school late starts or cancellations is student safety.
“The very nature of a bus makes it dangerous driving in icy conditions,” Tarzian said. “There are multiple starts and stops, and the bus is very heavy. At the same time, there is feedback about unsupervised children while the parents go to work. No easy solution has presented itself.”
Transportation Supervisor Teresa Thompson said it can be a difficult call with the district’s current snow routes.
“I’m the one who has to make a decision at 5 a.m. whether we go to school,” she said. “It’s really guesstimating and it can be very difficult personally when I make the wrong call.”
The routes in question are those that run on Skye, Miller, Hughes and Boren roads.
“They’re very dangerous and I’ve had drivers go into the river there,” Thompson said. “These are the first roads I check in the morning.”
The board is considering changing the routes to an area on Washougal River Road that is plowed regularly during winter weather.
“These other roads present a real problem because of the high elevation and because they are not always plowed.”
The board is expected to make a decision about snow route changes at its Tuesday, April 24 meeting.