As superintendent of the Oregon Trail School District, I am resolute about providing our students with safe transportation to and from school. That may mean making an unpopular call to close schools during inclement weather. The weather conditions we experienced during winter break served as a reminder that our school district encompasses many miles and is affected by varying weather patterns.
When some of our rural roads are icy or other dangerous circumstances exist, I must consider the safety of our students and staff first. Having grown up in the Northwest, I am aware of the road hazards created by snow and ice. If roads are safe and our schools are operational, they will remain open; if not, they will close until conditions improve.
That said, I am also a working parent who understands the difficulty of planning last-minute accommodations for a child. I want to assure you that my decisions will be based on a reasonable process to determine the safety of our school routes.
If inclement weather is suspected, I will work closely with First Student Transportation Supervisor Stewart Hedges to assess road conditions. We will use the following process:
• At around 2 a.m., Welches area transportation staff will call the transportation supervisor to report initial conditions in the area.
• By 2:30 a.m., transportation staff will drive roads in different regions of the district, including Government Camp, Lolo Pass, Shorty's Corner, Wildcat Mountain, Bull Run Road, Ten Eyck Road, Marmot Road and Boring. Drivers will report conditions to the transportation supervisor.
• By 4 a.m., the transportation supervisor will contact me with a first report regarding road conditions and recommendations.
• By 5 a.m, the transportation supervisor will contact me with a final update.
• Close to 5 a.m., I will make an initial call to delay or close schools. Local media will be notified.
Determining whether to delay or close schools, and whether to include all schools or segments of the district, is not based on an exact science. However, based on available road condition reports and the weather forecast, I will consider the following:
• If it appears weather conditions are progressively deteriorating, school likely will be closed.
• If there is a possibility of improvement, school likely will be on a two-hour late start.
• Snow routes will be designated as recommended by the transportation supervisor.
• When appropriate, specific buildings, rather than the entire district, may have a late start, be closed, and/or put on snow routes.
• If Welches schools are the only buildings closed for inclement weather, transportation will be provided for area high school students, at their parents' discretion, from the Hoodland Thriftway parking lot.
• By 7 a.m., if a late start was called, the transportation supervisor will provide me with an additional update so that I may make a final decision whether or not to close schools.
Once students have arrived at school, my intent is to retain them for the full school day when possible. Gathering drivers and notifying parents to make a mid-day change of plans is difficult. But on occasion, deteriorating conditions may require early dismissal. If that occurs, road conditions will be assessed using the same process and communicated to local media. On those days when the difficult choice to close schools must be made, I ask for your patience and realization that the safety of our students and staff is my greatest concern.
For easy updates on inclement weather closures, visit the district's Web site at www.oregontrailschools and click on 'Emergency Messages.