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What does it mean when “snow routes” are in effect?

A snow bus route (or snow route) is a modified bus route that generally runs on main roads rather than side streets or through neighborhoods. Driving a school bus in some areas may not be possible during severe weather. If snow routes are in effect, students must catch their bus at alternate stops.

Please review the weather communications carefully to determine if snow routes are in effect for the morning only or for the morning and afternoon routes. Depending on where you live, a snow route may or may not be necessary. It is the responsibility of families to know if they live on a snow route. Bus drivers may also remind students if they live in a snow route area.

Families of young children are reminded of the Return Home Plan communicated with them at the start of the school year. The same information and plan applies for a snow route. Please make arrangements to ensure the safety of your child at snow route stops.

How can I find my snow route?

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have a snow route. If schools are on snow routes pick up times will vary. To find your snow route, visit our Snow Routes webpage and click on your school. Transportation will make individual arrangements for special education buses which do not follow the snow routes.

How can I be notified of school closures or delays?

Families can sign up to receive weather notices via text and email through our notification system by contacting 360-676-6520 or updating their communications preferences in Skyward via the Skylert tab. For instructions on how to update contact preferences visit our Skylert webpage.

How are decisions made?

We closely monitor the weather. Most often, decisions are made in the early morning rather than the night before so that the most current weather conditions and forecasts can factor into the decision.

We recognize the impact on family schedules and will communicate any decision as quickly as possible. In the early morning hours (typically beginning at 3 a.m.), staff drive main roads and side streets throughout school district boundaries to assess driving and walking conditions. Information is compiled and reported to the superintendent, who will make the decision – based on the best available information at that time – to close, delay and/or run buses on snow routes. We understand these decisions disrupt family life and appreciate your patience during these severe weather situations. While we know that our students and families are best served when we are open, our top concern is the safety of our students and staff.

Will some schools close or delay while others remain open?

Generally, no.

Our school district is made up of about 100 square miles. Road and walking conditions usually vary widely from one neighborhood to another. This makes for a difficult decision on whether to close or delay school and/or use snow bus routes in all or only parts of our community. The decision whether to close or delay applies to all schools so that it will be easily understood and equitable for all students, staff and families. In rare circumstances when an emergency such as a prolonged power outage affects only a specific area, schedule changes may be needed for that school or set of schools.

How can I get weather/emergency information?

Bellingham Public Schools uses a variety of methods to keep you informed:

  • An email alert will automatically come to you if you have an email address in SchoolMessenger or Skyward (via Skylert tab; visit our Skylert webpage for for step-by-step directions). For an early a.m. text, please check your notification preferences in Skyward or contact 360-676-6520. You may select a phone call “early a.m.” option, but we do not plan to use the call feature for this school year to increase the speed of our communications.
  • Tune to local media: 790 AM, 96.5 FM, 104.1 FM or Seattle media.
  • Check bellinghamschools.org
  • Check @BhamSD on Twitter or @bellinghamschools on Facebook
  • Call 360-676-6400 for a recorded message.
  • Call 360-647-6815 for a message translated in Español, русский, tính từ and Punjabi.

What if a storm begins when children are at school?

We try, if at all possible, not to dismiss school early due to weather, except in rare extreme weather conditions.

Releasing early is problematic when families are not expecting it. Families may always choose to pick up their children early. We do our best to monitor and anticipate conditions. If needed in severe weather, we would use emergency contact information to communicate with parents.

What happens when school opens 2 hours late?

School is delayed when the weather is bad but is forecasted to improve and warm/thaw after sunrise.

This also allows our buses to operate in better conditions with less traffic. To maximize student learning time on days when weather requires a late start for safety, all schools will begin 2 hours later. All out-of-district daytime transportation is canceled when on snow routes or a delayed start (e.g. Northwest Career and Technical Academy). 

When school is delayed, students will catch the bus about 2 hours later at their regular bus stop or at their snow route stop if snow routes are in effect:

10:30 a.m. start for high schools

10:00 a.m. start for elementary schools

11:15 a.m. start for middle schools

A.M. and P.M. preschool (including Headstart) is canceled

If school is closed, are activities/events/meetings canceled?

Yes.

All school and district athletics held on or off district property — including mandatory or voluntary practices/rehearsals, activities (field trips and school/district facility rentals), meetings/events previously planned for before, after school and evening — are canceled. When school is open on snow routes or delayed, school and district administrators decide whether to cancel activities, meetings and events on a school-by-school basis. This information will be communicated to families.

If school is closed, when will missed days be made up?

State law requires that children attend school 180 days.

Children must be present for a certain number of hours each day in order for it to count as a school day. When school is delayed, children are in attendance the hours needed to meet state requirements. When school is closed, missed days must be made up unless they are waived by the state. State law does not currently allow school districts to add minutes onto each school day to make up missed time. Our school district’s 180-day calendar is part of the contract with our labor associations. The school calendar and the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement allow the first two missed school days to be made up at the end of the school year, which if needed, would be June 15 and 18, 2018. If additional make-up days are necessary, other options will be discussed and explored. We recognize the importance of having children in school on a regular schedule with quality, uninterrupted learning time. With safety as our primary concern, decisions that impact student learning are always weighed with careful consideration. Please be patient during weather situations as we share in the frustration regarding schedule changes.