The Making of Snow Days

The Making of Snow Days: Procedures Followed By The School District of Washington
Posted on 02/04/2020
SDOW LogoMany factors are considered when the decision to cancel school is made. On the surface, the decisions we make might seem simple, when in fact, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Many ask why snow routes are not more of a common place. The answer to that question is safety.

The School District of Washington is 257 square miles in size, with many roads that have no shoulder or guard rails.

Snow routes would mean the children (nearly half of our enrollment rides the bus) would be standing at snow route bus stops on roadways like Hwy 94, Hwy KK, Hwy T, Hwy A, Hwy BB, Hwy YY, etc. We just don’t feel this is a good option.

Some would also assume that all children are waiting for their bus within the comforts of a car with a parent. But the fact is many children see themselves off to school as the parent leaves for work before they get on the school bus.

Here is an exhaustive list of considerations prior to closing school:

Road conditions, both main roads and secondary roads

Bus stop safety

Buses running on time, delays

Bus turnarounds, likelihood of accident or breakdowns

Temperatures (buses not starting, mechanical failures)


Timing of precipitation

Attendance trends (School Districts must consider attendance rates for accountability and state reporting purposes)

Condition of the District’s 11 school building parking lots at the time of arrival or dismissal.

People with whom we consult:

First Student Bus Company

Buildings and Grounds staff

Area superintendents

State, county and city road departments (when applicable)

National Weather Service

Local Weather Outlook

When poor weather moves in during the evening, we drive our attendance areas (teams assembled by First Student and Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer) to check our biggest trouble spots typically between 6-9 p.m.

The road conditions at 9 p.m. are rarely different than the road conditions at 5 a.m. the next day when the buses are preparing to roll out. VanLeer seeks the comfort level of the bus drivers through Marty Marks, First Student Manager.

We drive roads in the morning as well, however, if the decision can be made in the evening, families can make arrangements more easily.

In addition to main roads, we analyze secondary roads, subdivisions and turn-around locations as well.

Morning monitoring and road checks typically begin at 3:30 a.m. as a decision must be made, preferably by 5 a.m. First Student begins executing the morning elementary routes as early as 5:45 a.m. as they are in route to their first pick-up location.

Why does the District not consider a late start schedule?

While the District would be open to re-visiting the idea of implementing a late-start schedule, there are several reasons why we currently do not utilize it.

The first is road conditions do not improve in rural areas a great deal between 5-8 a.m., and it becomes extremely difficult to predict if they actually will by the time the buses begin executing the routes.

The School District of Washington runs a two-tiered bus routing system, therefore the late start times would vary because elementary and secondary schools start at different times. We also have a few combined routes to consider. We have found this to be extremely confusing to parents and not a favorable option.

We have also found that student attendance numbers are significantly down on days with a late start schedule.

Academic Calendar Requirements

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has instituted requirements to academic calendars beginning for the 2019-20 school year. The requirement summary is as follows:

*There are no longer a minimum number of student attendance days required, as long as required number of hours are included in the academic calendar. Prior to 2019-20, academic calendars had to include 174 days minimum.

*A minimum of 1,044 hours of attendance must be included in the academic calendar.

*A total of 36 hours of inclement weather make-up must be included in the academic calendar.

*The District can choose to add 60 additional hours to their academic calendar totaling 1,104 hours and not have to make up any hours missed due to inclement weather.

The School District of Washington added those 60 instructional hours to the calendar to alleviate inclement weather make-up days.

By adding the 60 instructional hours, it allows the District to:

*Set the academic calendar with no changes in beginning or end dates, holidays, or winter/spring breaks.

*The high school graduation date is set with no possibility of having to change graduation due to having too many snow days. There’s no possibility of having to reprint graduation announcements or rearrangement of travel plans for out of town guests.

*Snow days will not need to be made up due to the 60 additional hours built into the academic calendar, along with the elimination of early release Wednesdays, and school bell-time changes, where applicable.

Be Prepared for Snow Days

We suggest for families to follow weather forecasts and reports and have a plan for childcare in place in the event of a call blast going out in the evening or early in the morning to cancel school for the day.

In addition to call blasts going out, school cancellations always will be posted on the District website along with the District’s Facebook and Twitter pages.