School Closures and Late Starts
Safety is the priority
In one part of the district, the roads may be perfectly clear while other areas are struggling with several inches of snow.
In emergency situations, such as snow and icy weather conditions, the top priority is the safety of students and staff. The district also recognizes that snow days disrupt family schedules and extend the school year. The decision to close schools is not an easy one.
It’s also complicated by the fact that the district covers 76 square miles, including low-lying areas next to Lake Washington as well as higher altitudes at Finn Hill, Education Hill and the Sammamish Plateau.
- Collecting information
- Examining conditions
- Analyzing the data
- Determining what's best for the whole district
- Superintendent makes final decision
To help make the best possible decision, the district gathers a lot of information first. A meteorologist is on contract to provide pinpoint predictions for the specific microclimates around our area. He helps the district understand which areas may be affected by upcoming weather and which may not.
Predictions are one thing. Actual conditions are another. That’s why the transportation department staff is on the roads around the district at 3 a.m. if it looks like a school closure might be in order. They report real road conditions. Custodians may be asked to report to work early at schools so they can report on conditions at the schools themselves.
Once all the information is collected, the support services staff forwards it to the district’s administration, based on their best analysis of the situation. There are three options available:
- Leave schools open
- Start late
- Close schools
Late start is used when conditions are borderline. The extra time and daylight make it easier for students to get to school safely.
For communication and administrative reasons, it is not possible to close just some schools in the district while leaving other schools open for districtwide weather events. So the decision has to be the best one for the safety of students in all areas of the district while at the same time avoiding unnecessary disruption.
When emergency conditions such as snow and ice, windstorms or earthquakes result in school schedule changes, the district will use one of the plans outlined below.
When there is inclement weather, you can learn about school closures or late start by 5:30 a.m.:
- Go to www.lwsd.org. If school is closed or starting late, you will see a pop-up alert box.
- Go to www.flashalert.net, which lists schools all over the Puget Sound area. You can also sign up to receive text alerts or emails from this service.
- Call 425-936-1200 to listen to a recorded message. (After 7 a.m., you may talk to a district receptionist).
- Tune in to local radio and television stations.
LWSD also uses the SchoolMessenger automated calling system to let parents know if school will be delayed or cancelled. Calls will begin at 5:00 a.m. You will not receive a call if school will open normally. If you want to double-check the status or learn it early, use one of the options listed above.
If school is closed, the following programs will also be cancelled:
- All before or after school activities
- All activities including athletic events and parent meetings
- Extended Day Program
If school starts late:
- All schools start two hours late.
- The following programs are canceled:
- Quest pull-out classes
- Before school programs (including morning Extended Day)
- All preschool sessions
- Out-of-district transportation
School will dismiss at regular times unless otherwise announced.
Transportation during emergencies
Alternate bus routes - snow routes
Parents always have the option to keep their student home if they believe it is unsafe.If there is snow and schools remains open or start late, the transportation department may decide to use snow routes. These routes enable buses to eliminate short sections of their routes that may be unsafe in snow or icy conditions. Postcards are sent to families of bus riders in November with information about your snow route bus stop.
In case of a major earthquake while students are on a school bus, drivers will receive specific instructions via radio. If they are going to school, drivers will continue to pick up students on their routes and deliver them to school. If roads limit travel, students will be transported to the nearest school. If an earthquake hits when buses are transporting children home from school, drivers will return to the school they came from or to the closest school. Children will stay at school until parents or designees arrive. Call your school for more information about its earthquake plan.