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Closing school when safe transportation is impossible
Closing school when safe transportation is impossible
Posted on 02/07/2017
snow angelIn the event of inclement weather or an emergency situation the Puyallup School District takes every precaution to ensure the safety of students. At the same time public schools are required to provide 180 days of instruction for students within a school year. Finding balance in this can be challenging. Due to situations beyond our control, sometimes there is a need to close schools or modify their start times.

Closing schools due to inclement weather is a difficult decision to make under the best of circumstances. There are some school districts which use hard and fast criteria such as temperature and wind chill, and others will use a combination of factors. In most school districts the governing policy is to direct the superintendent to execute a decision based upon the best interests of the students and their families.

Puyallup School District administration employs a three-part system to determine school closings due to weather:

1. Road surface conditions,
2. Visibility, and
3. Actual air temperature.

Common sense dictates that if the roads are iced over schools will be closed regardless of temperature and visibility. This is especially obvious if there has been little opportunity to gravel and sand the bus routes.

By the same token, if the roads are clear and dry but visibility is under a quarter mile in a sustained manner, PSD would close schools regardless of the temperature. Closing schools based soley upon temperature is the most difficult criterion to use.

Additional factors must be considered such as length of bus routes, availability of buses and drivers, and temperatures moderating throughout the day.

It is also important to determine where and when temperatures are recorded. PSD uses the weather information from a variety of sources including NOAA, local meteorologists, and the National Weather Service. From these sources we receive constant updates on visibility, wind, and temperature.

In addition, when there is inclement weather in the forecast several school district employees make their way to the roads in the very early hours of the morning to inspect for driving conditions. Since the district serves such a large geographic area with great variation in elevation, we feel this is necessary in order to make an informed decision.

The practice in Puyallup includes consideration of ambient air temperature if there were little chance of moderation during the day combined with poor road conditions. The decision to cancel classes and buses would be made as soon as we are sure that safe transportation is impossible. A district decision to close all schools comes when this is certain for a large portion of the district’s attendance area.

"The decision to cancel classes and buses would be made as soon as we are sure that safe transportation is impossible."

No school closing decision will be universally accepted. Issues of family schedules, day care, and a host of other problems are always created when a school closes with little notice to parents. Issues of student safety are paramount, and every effort will be made to communicate with families in a timely fashion and inform them of their options. 

A parent always reserves the right to keep their child home during times of inclement weather. This would be treated as an excused absence. Excessive absences will be handled with the school attendance policy.