Central Point School District #6

Inclement Weather FAQ: Everything you wanted to know about District 6 school closures and delays

How does the district decide whether or not to delay or close schools?  The primary consideration is safe student transportation to and from our schools.  Beginning at about 3:00 am on a poor weather day, transportation manager, Deena Engberg begins driving potentially hazardous routes in our district while I review forecasts and often speak directly to the National Weather Service.  Deena sends me pictures of road conditions and we discuss those conditions along with the forecast. I also communicate with area superintendents and we compare road condition reports.    If Deena is confident that our busses can safely transport students along regular routes, we all proceed with our regular routine.  Often, just using “snow routes” allows for safe transport and other times the forecast promises a break (or thaw) in the weather if we can delay busses for two hours.  Occasionally, the weather does not behave the way we expected and a “delay” becomes a “closure.”  This is what occurred this morning—temperatures did not rise as expected and the snowfall only increased.  The NWS adjusted its forecast just as we made the call to close schools.

Why do you decide at the last minute?  It would be really helpful to know the night before!  Yes, it would be.  I recognize how difficult last-minute schedule changes are for parents—many of whom are not allocated “snow days” and are faced with a sudden transportation or daycare issue.  The forecast can change quickly in the Rogue Valley.   Remember November 27, 2019?  It was the day prior to Thanksgiving, an early release day for students and the forecast was “snowpocolypse” combined with an expectation of widespread power outages.  By 2:00 pm on the 26th, we had enough snow in the Gold Hill and Sams Valley area to be very concerned about transporting kids home.  And, kids in Central Point were looking longingly at the snowflakes outside their classroom windows.  By 6:00 pm on the 26th, the wind increased significantly, we had no power at Sams Valley Elementary and as I was talking with the National Weather Service in Medford, they lost power.  Of all days, this seemed to be the time to make the call the night before and give parents a chance to plan.  I made the call and we posted it; I felt like a genius.  Until the next day, when the forecasted weather did not materialize and instead, a gentle breeze and partial sun mocked me.  While student safety is our first concern and notifying parents as soon as possible is also a consideration, we prioritize teaching and learning—we want to maximize the school days we have each year.

Why do you make the decision so early?  Often, the weather is fine by the time school starts.  Again, this is true (see above).  Because safe transportation (both bus transportation and consideration for student drivers and parents driving) is the determining factor, the decision has to be made by 6:00 am for the first busses to begin their routes.  When we are monitoring the weather and road conditions to determine whether or not a two-hour delay will become a closure, we have to decide before 8:00 am.  This morning was a very last-minute move from delay to closure (busses were called back) when the weather conditions worsened rather than improved.

Why don’t you close schools in Gold Hill and Sams Valley, but keep Central Point schools open?  Usually, the weather and roads are fine in town, but treacherous at higher elevations.  We have many students who live in out of town areas and higher elevations, but attend in-town schools (all high school students go to Crater).  We also have many students who live in Central Point, but attend out-of-town schools.  While I’m sure someone can provide me with an example, I can’t think of a weather related/road condition reason that would result in closing some of our schools and not others.  We’re all one district!

When I went to school, a little snow didn’t stop us.  And, if Alaskans were as soft as school officials in the Rogue Valley, they would NEVER have school!  This isn’t really a question, but a comment (or something similar)  that we get occasionally.  By occasionally, I mean multiple times for every closure or delay.  I will not argue that valley “school officials” are tougher than Alaskans.  However, in regions that consistently get snow accumulation, municipalities have the equipment necessary to manage the roadways and residents are accustomed to navigating treacherous roadways.

When you call a “2 hour delay,” what time will busses run?  A “2 hour delay” means that all school schedules and bus routes will begin two hours later than the regular schedule.  One caveat is Wednesdays (please, let there only be beautiful weather on a Wednesday).  Announcements for Wednesday weather delays will include more specifics about start times and release times, because it is very confusing.

What do “snow routes” mean?   When the conditions are sketchy in the higher elevations, but passable everywhere else, our busses sometimes run “snow routes.”  This means that some routes do pick-ups and drop offs at an alternate location that may be down the hill from the usual pick up and drop off points.   There is typically a link to snow route information in our posts and you can also find it here: snow routes

Why don’t all school districts in the region coordinate weather delays or closures, it is very confusing!  Another truth and it is confusing.  Area superintendents discuss weather delays and closures as a group, often with the National Weather Service.  Over the past few days, we’ve had a 5:00 pm meeting and a 5:00 am meeting each day.  Still, those meetings rarely result in valley wide decisions.  The primary factor is that each school district serves a number of “micro-climates” and the conditions, temperatures and snow accumulation can vary wildly.  Each superintendent ultimately makes a decision that is best for his or her district, based on the conditions in that particular district.

I didn’t find out about the closure until I was driving my student to school!  How does the district handle the communication?Once a decision to delay or close is made, I notify district and school administrators via group text.  Next, I send an email to all district staff with the information.  Within a few minutes after the email, we update the district and school FaceBook pages and the district website.  Meanwhile, a communication goes out to all media (television stations, radio and the newspaper).  This process takes less than 15 minutes.   I don’t believe this system is perfect and we are discussing options to get accurate and complete information out in additional ways (phone or email) and assure that the communication can happen quickly.

Why do you close schools and then have extra-curricular activities?  On days of school closure, we typically make a decision about extra-curricular activities later in the day.  The weather can change quickly and even the worst weather days sometimes transition to safe driving conditions by 3:00 pm.  Again, student safety is our first concern, but if we can assure safe transportation, our priority is providing the teaching, learning and activities that benefit our kids.

Who do I talk to for suggestions about how weather delays and closures are handled?  We strive to make the best possible decisions for D6 kids and communicate those decisions effectively.  However, there is always room for improvement and the best ideas have yet to be heard.  If you have a question, idea, complaint or suggestion, please let me know.  I can be reached via email at samantha.steele@district6.org, in my office at 541.494.6201 or via cell phone (or text) at 541.840.5644.