Most Benton County schools have been closed for nearly a week following Friday’s snowstorm, and local districts are scheduling the requisite make-up days.
Philomath and Alsea schools were open on a two-hour delay Wednesday after being closed for three school days, but Monroe remained closed Wednesday for a fourth school day in a row, and the Corvallis district will remain closed today for a fifth school day in a row.
Here’s how the individual districts will make up for the snow days:
Corvallis School District
Erin Prince, Corvallis School District’s superintendent, said that Feb. 17 and June 16-20 already are designated as potential make-up days on the district’s school calendar.
“We will be meeting to discuss which (of those dates) to use on our existing calendar to make up the snow days,” Prince said. “We will do everything we can to communicate this out early enough for families to adjust their calendars and avoid conflicts with family travel plans.”
Prince said in her snow-day decision process she involves the district’s maintenance and custodial managers, other superintendents in the area and a manager from First Student Transportation, which provides school bus service for Corvallis.
“I usually have at least one or two people out driving the bus routes to advise me of road conditions and safety for driving, standing at bus stops, walking to school, etc.,” she added.
She said the persistence of snow and ice on the roads, which meant at least 16 of the company’s buses would have to use chains just to reach snow routes, was a major factor in the decision.
She added that by Tuesday, the district had cleared snow and ice from walkways at schools, but not parking lots.
“Even if we could clear them, trying to keep up with de-icing is very difficult. Many of our parents and students drive to school, so we need to keep this in mind,” she said. “It is not just about the buses, but how safe it is for student, staff, and parent drivers.”
She added that the safety of students walking and waiting at bus stops also was taken into consideration.
She said district officials were hoping for warmer temperatures to start melting the snow and ice so that they could return to the regular schedule as soon as possible.
Prince said the district’s staff members are not paid on days when the school is closed for the weather, but they are paid for make-up days. They also can take snow days as vacation time.
Philomath School District
Dan Forbess, the superintendent of the Philomath School District, said Philomath has two make-up days in its schedule, but it might add more.
“Because we are slightly over the minimum number of required hours, we have some wiggle room in our calendar to accommodate additional missed instruction time, but we will likely make up the missed days by adjusting the calendar, which is a School Board decision,” he said.
As in the Corvallis district, Philomath School District employees are not paid for snow days but are paid for make-up days and can take a vacation day when the school closes due to bad weather.
Forbess said he worked closely with a representative of Mid-Columbia Bus Co., which provides bus service for the Philomath district, to determine when it was safe to reopen schools. He said district staff drove the bus routes Tuesday afternoon, and again Tuesday evening before deciding to reopen on Wednesday.
“First and foremost, we must be able to safely transport students to school,” he said of their criteria for determining when to reopen.
Somer Sanchez, a sixth-grader at Philomath Middle School who returned to class Wednesday, said she was glad to have been out of school: “It was fun playing in the snow.”
Monroe School District
Randy Crowson, the Monroe School District’s superintendent, said the district will use the remaining furlough days on the calendar to make up the missed days, and then add any remaining days to the end of the school year.
Crowson said Wednesday that most roads in the Monroe area, other than Highway 99, had not been sanded or plowed at all.
He added that he and other district employees have been scrambling to clean up after pipes burst in Monroe Grade School, but the state of the roads, and not the burst pipes, was the reason for Wednesday’s closure.
Alsea School District
Alsea School District has eight potential make-up days on its published calendar, which could include extending the school year by four days.