North Santiam School District

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February 28, 2023

Message from Supt. Loving

Hello NSSD Families,

First, what a crazy morning we all had! Second, I want to apologize for the multiple messages you received this morning and the need for you to change your plans multiple times. When I re-entered my driveway this morning at 5:30am after driving parts of the district, conditions were wet, clear, and 34 degrees. Oh, what can happen in an hour! As conditions changed rapidly, we had to adjust from a few buses on snow routes to a two-hour delay and then to a full-day closure.

I suspect as you watched us pivot our plans for school, your level of frustration grew. Again, for that I apologize. As such, I want to share with you the process that we undergo each morning when making school delay or closure decisions. Here is what we do:

  1. Watch the weather forecast 10 days ahead to determine if any, which days we will need to drive and observe conditions.

  2. Each day that the forecast calls for close to freezing temps in the early morning, we begin with a drive around the District.

  3. I and other NSSD staff (and sometimes even a board member) depart our homes around 4:30 am and drive specific routes.

  4. Our routes include: all the school parking lots, each city, and most of the higher elevations in the district. These higher elevation areas include: Cole School Road, Sandner, Fern Ridge, Hwy 223, Hwy 22, Kingston-Lyons/Jordan, and part of McCully Mtn.

  5. During this drive time, we are consulting with the MidCo Bus manager who is also monitoring conditions and providing feedback on what they are seeing.

  6. I connect directly with other local school district superintendents to check on their conditions and plans for the day around 5:00-5:15am.

  7. We monitor Salem/Keizer's status as a large number of our teaching staff are coming from or driving through Salem. While this is an important piece, the last few weeks have shown us how different the weather conditions can be within a fairly small geographic radius.

In addition, another variable that makes this process even more compex, is the variety of elevations that exist within NSSD. Very often roads are clear in one part and slick or icy in others. I know it can be frustrating to have a 2-hour delay and look out the window and see clear roads.

Next, we start processing the following questions:

  • Can bus drivers safely travel their routes, knowing that the earliest pick-ups start around 6:15 am?

  • Can students safely travel to school (including student drivers and walkers)?

  • Are we confident the majority of staff can navigate to school (some as early as 5:30 am) so that buildings can function?

If the answers to one or more of these questions is NO, we work to determine if the conditions are reasonably expected/forecasted to change enough within 2 hours or if our school start times may allow conditions to shift so these questions can be answered affirmatively. If not, then I make the decision to close. I do not make these decisions to delay or close school lightly. I also know that delays, and especially closures, can be very disruptive to families and for some, cause real hardship.

Every decision is a delicate balance between keeping students and staff safe and preserving instructional hours. We believe every instructional hour counts when it comes to learning and but they also impact our ability to meet the mandated number of instructional hours. If a school district loses too many instructional hours due to unplanned closures, it may be required to add additional school days to the end of the school year. If delaying or closing is what it takes to keep everyone safe, then we will make that decision. However, if there are opportunities to keep kids in school by delaying instead of canceling or waiting to see if a forecast materializes before making a decision, we are likely going to take that opportunity.

That said, we will continue to honor a family's decision to delay their student's departure to school if they feel the commute in their particular area remains unsafe.

Future forecasts for the remainder of this week indicate we are not out of the woods quite yet. If the forecasts hold true, we might have more delays and/or closures in the next 48 hours. We truly appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate these decisions in real-time, under almost constant changing conditions.

Here's to looking forward to brighter, sunny days ahead! In the meantime, stay safe!

Lee Loving, Superintendent

North Santiam School District

2022-2023 School Calendar

The 2022-2023 school calendar can be viewed by clicking HERE. Some upcoming dates when schools will be closed include:

Feb. 20th: Presidents Day

March 27-31: Spring Break

April 7th: Grading Day, Mid-term 2

April 13th: Early Release

April 14th: Conference Hours Payback