VPS schools open despite robocall error

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

Updated: December 6, 2013, 1:42 PM

 

Confusion over whether Vancouver Public Schools would have a snow day today was complicated when a robocall was accidentally sent out to some parents.

District officials say they do not know how many parents received the call, or how the error was made.

“Vancouver Public Schools remain open,” said Tom Hagley, district spokesman. “We understand that an automated phone call was sent by another user. We don’t know exactly who. It was erroneously sent to some parent households in Vancouver and we understand Evergreen (School District) experienced the same issue.”

“School is in session,” Hagley said. “It will continue on the regular session. Parents do not need to pick up their kids. Kids aren’t being bused home early. They’re on the regular schedule.”

All evening activities for grades K-8 are canceled. In-town events for grades 9-12 will continue. Out-of-town athletic events are canceled.

Vancouver Public Schools evening and weekend activities:

All K-8 (elementary and middle school) activities are canceled tonight and this weekend. This includes the middle school wrestling tournament at Hudson's Bay High School on Saturday.

All grade 9-12 (high school) athletics and activities in town (Clark County) will continue as scheduled this evening and this weekend.

All Grade 9-12 (high school) athletics and activities out of town this evening and over the weekend are canceled.

The district released the following statement:

"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 posted the following message on its Facebook page around 11 a.m.:

"At this time, we understand that communication was erroneously sent by the district’s robocall system. It may have been triggered by an event notification issued by another user. VPS schools are open and running on a regular schedule. Some evening activities have been affected."

Other districts reported the following.

Evergreen Public Schools

Evergreen Public Schools remained open and on the regular schedule. That includes an already-planned two-hour early release for K-8 students.

The district released the following information shortly before noon:

"For Friday: K-8 after-school activities and sports are cancelled; high school sports and activities continue as scheduled in Clark County and Portland area only, other out-of-area events are cancelled. For Saturday: all activities in Clark County and Portland continue as scheduled, all other out-of-area events are cancelled."

Just before noon the district posted this on its Facebook page:

"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."

Battle Ground

Earlier this morning, Battle Ground Public Schools had announced a 2.5 hour late start. But as snow continued to accumulate and roads were slick, district officials decided to close the entire district.

“All activities are cancelled,” said Sean Chavez, the district’s spokesman. “That includes all sporting events and Cocoa and Caring at Glenwood Primary.”

Battle Ground, geographically the largest school district in Clark County, stretches north past Amboy and Yacolt and south to Pleasant Valley, just north of the WSU Vancouver campus. The district has divided its schools into “north” and “south” regions. Sometimes snowstorms close the north region of the district but not the southern region. Today the entire district is closed.

Camas

The Camas School District announced its closure later in the morning, around 10 a.m., after it became evident the snow was sticking. Many students had already been bussed to school by the time the district made the announcement.

District spokeswoman Doreen McKercher said, by the time school buses began picking up students, snow flurries had started. Adding to the decision to close schools was the city's closure of several roads.

"It became evident it was getting worse and worse," she said.

The district started sending students home at 11 a.m.

Hockinson

Early this morning, Hockinson School District announced a two-hour late start, but as snow continued to fall, the district decided to close the district. Cascade Transportation, the district’s bus company, did a 4 a.m. 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.

“The higher percentage of our homes are in the hills,” Lemieux said.

Washougal

Washougal School District had not called a late start, so students already were en route or at school when district officials announced at 9 a.m. that the district would close, according to Cassi Marshall, administrative assistant to the superintendent.

“Our transportation officer is working with which roads are clearest to travel,” Marshall said. “Usually, Cape Horn Skye has the most treacherous roads, but today, those roads are the clearest.”

At 9:45 a.m., the Cape Horn Skye buses began loading students to return them to their homes, Marshall said.

“We have kids at school. As soon as those Cape Horn Skye buses return to the schools, then our in-town school routes will begin, estimated to be 10:45 a.m.,” Marshall said. “There’s a couple of hilly roads that the county is working on those roads to clear them. Either plow or salt.

“Sunset View Road, in town heading up into the hills, we’ve heard is really bad. That road is particularly problematic,” Marshall said.

“Right now it’s still coming down and our parking lot is very white,” Marshall said. “Cars are moving very slowly on the main streets out here. It’s moving much slower than usual.”

The elementary schools called parents to see if they will be home so kids can be sent home on the buses. Parents also could pick their kids up at school if they prefer. If students can’t be sent home, they will remain at school until their parents pick them up.

Middle school and high school students will be sent home on buses.

Cape Horn-Skye and Canyon Creek bus routes will begin around 10 a.m.

Gause and Hathaway bus routes will begin running at 10:45 a.m.

High School take home routes will start at 11:45 a.m.

Jemtegaard will start take home routes at noon.

Parents can calculate an approximate arrival time based on their student's normal drop off time. Please assume the take home bus routes will take a while longer than normal to get students home.

Washougal evening and weekend events

Washougal Festival of Trees, a community event with the local Lions Club, is running according to schedule: 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Hathaway Elementary School.

Washougal's Stuff the Bus event has been postponed until Monday.

The Jack Will and Rob Center is open for after-school care, but will close at 5 p.m.

Saturday's cheerleading event in Hockinson is still happening.

All other high school and middle school athletic events are canceled, including Saturday's middle school wrestling tournament.

Ridgefield and La Center

Both the Ridgefield and La Center school districts remained open and were not on snow routes.

Contrary to the rest of the county, there were reports of no snow sticking in La Center.

School closures

The following districts have reported closures or modified schedules/bus routes:

Clark County Schools

Battle Ground Sch. Dist. : Closed.

Head Start programs in Battle Ground and Yacolt: Cancelled.

Camas Sch. Dist. : Closed. NO PM K or Preschool. Students riding buses will be released at 11:00 for high school; 11:20 for middle schools; 12:30 for elementary. Parent who wish to pick up students can do so now.

Hockinson Sch. Dist. : Schools closed, district offices open, Buses on snow routes

Washougal Sch. Dist. : School closed we will be bring children home or you may pick them up at school

Cowlitz County Schools

Castle Rock Sch. Dist. : Closed

Kelso Sch. Dist. : Routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 15A, 16, 20, 29, 31B on morning snow routes

Toutle Lake SD : Closed

Wahkiakum Sch. Dist. : Closed

Private schools

Columbia Adventist Academy, Battle Ground: Closed.

Meadow Glade Adventist Elementary, Battle Ground: Two-hour delay.

Three Rivers Christian School, Longview: Two-hour delay.