Schools' snow days determined by districts

Check before heading out to scheduled weekend activities

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

 

Friday's snow and cold closed four Clark County school districts: Battle Ground, Hockinson, Camas and Washougal.

Confusion over whether Vancouver Public Schools and Evergreen Public Schools — the county's two largest districts — would have a snow day Friday was complicated when a robocall was accidentally sent out to some parents in both districts announcing that schools were closing. In fact, neither district was closed.

Officials from both districts say they do not know how many parents received the call. All the local districts contract with the same company to send automated phone calls and text messages to parents, said Gail Spolar, spokeswoman for Evergreen Public Schools.

Dozens of parents, some confused and some angry, posted messages on the Facebook pages for both districts.

Vancouver

"Vancouver Public Schools remain open," said Tom Hagley, district spokesman. "At this time, we understand that an automated phone message originating from another system user also was sent in error to some parents in the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts. This 'robocall' was not initiated by Vancouver Public Schools."

The district canceled all weekend activities for elementary and middle schools, including a middle school wrestling tournament at Hudson's Bay High School planned for today. The exception is the Lego Robotics tournament Saturday and Sunday at Salmon Creek Elementary, which is still happening.

The district's high school athletics and activities in Clark County will continue as scheduled this weekend. But all high school out-of-town athletic and other activities are canceled.

Evergreen

Evergreen Public Schools remained open and on the regular schedule, including an already-planned early release for K-8 students.

The district released the following information shortly before noon: "We understand some parents and staff may have received a recorded call indicating schools were closing early today. The call, generated by an outside company, was actually intended for parents of another school district and instead was sent to a wider audience — including some Evergreen contacts."

The district canceled Friday's K-8 after-school activities and sports. Today, all the district's activities in Clark County and Portland continue as scheduled, but out-of-area events are cancelled, said Gail Spolar, district spokeswoman.

Battle Ground

Early Friday morning, Battle Ground Public Schools announced a 2-1/2-hour late start. But as snow continued to accumulate and roads were slick, district officials decided to close the district.

"All activities are cancelled," said Sean Chavez, the district's spokesman. "That includes all sporting events."

Battle Ground, geographically the largest school district in Clark County, stretches north past Amboy and Yacolt and south to Pleasant Valley, near the WSU Vancouver campus. The district has divided its schools into north and south regions. Sometimes snowstorms shut down the north region of the district but not the southern region. Friday, the entire district was closed.

Camas

The Camas School District announced its closure around 10 a.m. Friday, after it became evident the snow was sticking.

"It became evident it was getting worse and worse," said Doreen McKercher, district spokeswoman.

Many students had already been bused to school by then. Adding to the decision to close schools was the city's closure of several roads, McKercher said.

Hockinson

Early Friday morning, Hockinson School District announced a two-hour late start, but as snow continued to fall, the district decided to cancel classes.

Cascade Transportation, the district's bus company, did a 4 a.m. test run. "The roads were clear at that time," said Laurie Lemieux, district spokeswoman. "After the weather system moved in, they drove the road again and gave us updated information."

By that time, snow was falling. The bus company called the superintendent, who decided to close the district and cancel all evening activities. A large percentage of the district's students live at higher elevations, Lemieux said.

Washougal

Students in the Washougal School District already were en route or at school when district officials announced at 9 a.m. that the district would close, said Cassi Marshall, administrative assistant to the superintendent. Students were bused home. Others were picked up by parents.

All high school and middle school athletic events are canceled, including today's middle school wrestling tournament. Washougal's Stuff the Bus event was postponed until Monday.

Washougal Festival of Trees, a community event with the local Lions Club, is running according to schedule today from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Hathaway Elementary School. Today's cheerleading event in Hockinson is still happening.

Ridgefield, La Center

Both the Ridgefield and La Center school districts remained open Friday.

Cowlitz County

In Cowlitz County, the Castle Rock, Toutle Lake and Wahkiakum school districts were closed. In Kelso School District, nine buses were on morning snow routes.

Some private schools also were closed or delayed.

Making closure calls

Vancouver Public Schools released this statement:

"The final decision to close schools, delay the opening of schools, or implement snow/ice bus routes is made by the superintendent and is based on the best information available at that time. … The decision to close schools is made prior to 6 a.m., as bus routes for the high schools are about to begin, or earlier if possible. Messages are then sent to key staff members to distribute, sent out through the FlashAlert system, and posted on the district website.

"For December 6, weather reports did not indicate problems for Southwest Washington. Beginning at about 6 a.m. weather turned worse than predicted, particularly in the north end of the district. School buses had begun their early routes. Weather was monitored throughout the morning, and the possibility of a two-hour early release was discussed. When it was determined that road conditions would be the same, the decision was made to complete the school day as scheduled."


Tyler Graf contributed to this story.