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Spokane students get rare day off

Mon., Jan. 28, 2008

For the first time in 11 years, the 28,000 students in Spokane Public schools will get a day off courtesy of old man winter.

The district joined dozens of other public and private schools as well as colleges and universities in the region that cancelled classes today because of Sunday’s snowstorm. Others will decide this morning.

The closures will leave parents scrambling to find child care, as schools and some day care centers continue to dig out.

Spokane officials said challenges included clearing snow at more than 50 buildings in time for the start of school. The last time schools were closed was during Ice Storm ‘96.

“We need another day to get those parking lots and sidewalks cleared,” said Terren Roloff, school district spokeswoman. “And it gives the city another day to make the roads passable for our buses.”

Employees who work only during the nine-month school-year – including teachers – were told not to report to work. However, year-round employees, such as administrators and maintenance workers, were expected to show up, Roloff said.

Elementary and secondary schools in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Rathdrum will also be closed today.

Road conditions, unsafe sidewalks and the sheer amount of snow contributed to the decision, said Jerry Keane, superintendent of the Post Falls School District.

“We really are having a struggle just cleaning up our schools so we can get in them,” Keane said.

Other Spokane County districts who made the decision Sunday to keep students home included Deer Park, Freeman, Medical Lake, Liberty, Orchard Prairie, Nine Mile Falls and the Cheney districts.

“We plan our calendar ahead of time in the event we have to close schools for safety,” said Debra Clemens, the assistant superintendent in Cheney.

Students will have to make up the snow days at the end of the school year. So far, that means Cheney students’ summer vacation will be two days shorter, Clemens said.

Many parochial schools were also closed, including most Spokane Catholic Diocese schools. Gonzaga Prep is closed.

The child care center at St. Anne’s Children and Family Center, operated by Catholic Charities will not be open, leaving the families of more than 200 low-income children without day care services.

Some school districts were reluctant Sunday night to make a decision on whether to keep students at home.

Central Valley students are expected to be in their seats today, but parents should check media alerts first thing in the morning, said Melanie Rose, district spokeswoman.

“We are just going to see how it is,” Rose said.

The district did cancel three bus routes in rural areas because the roads were not plowed and clogged with heavy snow.

The same was true in the East Valley district, where schools are open but several roads were closed and buses would not be getting through, said Judi Christianson, public information officer.

Mead students, as well as those in West Valley, were expected to be back in the classroom on time, as of late Sunday.

“We are going to reassess at 6 a.m.” this morning, said Sue Shields, spokeswoman for the West Valley School District. “Our buses are chained up and ready to go.”


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