The Peninsula awoke to a blanket of snow on Thursday morning and many citizens were surprised to hear Ocean Beach School District had not opted for a delayed start or a school cancellation as many of the surrounding districts had done.

As Superintendent, it is my responsibility to make that call and I can tell you it is not an easy one. The first question we ask ourselves when making the decision is "can we safely transport our kids to and from school?"

On days that present marginal weather conditions, The Transportation Director, myself, and several others get in our vehicles and hit the road around 5:30 a.m. We try to gauge road conditions from all parts of the District and often will make calls to the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol to find out about any accidents, road closures, or weather alerts. We consult weather reports and weather maps and make our best determination about the safety of our busses on the road. We also try to determine the safety for staff, and parents who choose to drive their children to school.

On Thursday morning, after our road test and making several calls, we determined that a two- hour delay would actually push traffic to a time when the roads would be at their worst. So then we were left with the quandary do we cancel or do we go on time?

Cancelling school is a serious event that impacts the entire community. Parents are left to scramble to find day care. Many are forced to transport their kids in their own cars, on bad roads, to a temporary daycare provider. Some kids get left home alone as parents can't find or afford daycare; this during a time when weather can present dangerous situations. Still other parents choose to stay home from work impacting businesses across the Peninsula and often causing a loss of a much needed pay day.

Our decision on Thursday to go ahead with school was made because we truly believed we could safely transport our kids to and from school, which proved to be true as all busses and staff arrived safely and on time. We were able to avoid all of the problems associated with a closure and we provided students with a safe, warm and supportive environment in their schools. The decision has nothing to do with money, or proving a point, it was about balancing our obligations to be open and our need to provide a safe situation for our kids.

For all of you who felt this was the wrong choice, I want you to know that on inclement weather days if you feel the need to keep your students home because you feel it is unsafe to transport them, we will support you in that decision and no student will suffer adverse action because of your choice to keep them home.

On Friday we will face another hard call. The temperatures are expected to plummet to the mid-20s overnight and unless the moisture is completely gone from the road surfaces we could find ourselves confronting a sheet of ice on the roadways. This is a much more treacherous situation than the snow accumulation we faced on Thursday. Should such a situation occur, we will be canceling school on Friday as we could not be confident in our ability to safely transport kids.

Should this be the case, we will notify local media outlets by 6 a.m. to let everyone know of the closure. The best source for information is the District website www.ocean.k12.wa.us .

Finally, a note of thanks to all of you who called to express your opinion regarding school closure. Your input helps us in our future decision making. Should you like to give further feedback to me, please feel free to email me at boyd.keyser@oceanbeachschools.org

 

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