Dear Santiam Families,
COULD THERE BE SNOW DAYS WITH DISTANCE LEARNING?
The short answer to this question is YES. If weather and road conditions are such that we cancel or delay school, this would also cancel or delay distance learning for the day. The reason for this decision is that we now have most of our elementary school students attending in-person and if they cannot attend, all school will be cancelled. Now, it could be that these students could just log in from home and do distance learning like the others, but our issue with that is that we now have many staff who have to teach from our buildings and many operations of distance learning require staff onsite to manage. So, for now, when a 2 hour delay or cancellation happens due to weather or road conditions, ALL students will have a snow day. If this practice changes at any time, we will communicate this to families. I hope to keep school rolling this week and throughout the wintery weather, but each day brings a new decision.
Another scenario to consider is if most of the lower part of the Canyon is ok, but parts of the Upper Canyon are icy, we would open, knowing that some families could opt for distance learning that day if they feel travel is not safe for them. This does open up new options.
HOW A SNOW DAY IS CALLED?
The wintery weather time of year is upon us and the snow is starting to fall in our higher elevations. On the days when our students get to sleep in due to foul weather, we put in extra time to help make the best possible decision with the information we have. Safety is our number one priority.
On days when the road conditions could be poor, the workday starts at 4:00 a.m. with a team of people working to gather information. The bus company sends drivers around the district to check conditions and make recommendations. I will even drive around and come check out the condition of our campus. Custodial staff check campus conditions while local patrons, who get up early, call and text me road conditions and images. As our drivers make their way around our large district, which ranges in elevation from 800 ft. to 2400 ft., I am checking weather reports, future cast radars, ODOT Trip Check and calling neighboring districts to see what may be coming our way. This information gathering process goes up until about 5:30 a.m., when a decision needs to be made, as our first buses roll out of the bus barn around then.
The decision to keep the regular schedule, delay or cancel is a difficult one to make, knowing that it could put nearly 600 students and staff out on the roads. It is complicated even further by the diversity of conditions within our district. Some areas can be clear and fine, while others may be unsafe to travel. When the call is made around 5:30 a.m., it could be made based on current conditions or forecasts of what we see coming within the next few hours that will affect safe travel later in the morning. Sometimes we utilize the 2-hour delay to allow people more travel time in the light or allow the temperature to rise. The delay can also give us time to watch to see if wintery weather is close to hitting us, but we aren’t sure if it will cause a problem. I don’t pretend to be a weatherman, but I have learned to utilize all the resources around to help make the best decision at the time.
Once a decision is made, buses either roll out or the notification process begins. If we are cancelling or delaying school, we post information to:
- Santiam Canyon School District Facebook page
- School Messenger notification system for staff and families
- Flash Alert
Families, please make sure your contact information is accurate at the school offices to receive notification on delays or cancellations. Notifications will also be on local television stations and radio.
Please know that when your kids miss school, we have done our due diligence to make a decision based on student safety. I want them in school as much as possible and I understand the hardship it can create in family schedules. In hindsight, some of the decisions don’t turn out to be the best, as conditions can quickly change or predictions are wrong, but we learn from them and work to improve our process. If you have questions about school cancellations or bus routes, please feel free to call me at the District Office at 503-897-2321 or First Student Bus Company at 541-327-9654.
Thank you for your understanding and patience this winter!
Todd Miller, Superintendent