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WSU Pullman cancels classes Monday, Tuesday due to roadway conditions after storm

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 7, 2022

FILE - Washington Dept. of Transportation snow plows work on a stretch of eastbound Interstate Highway 90, Dec. 9, 2021, as snow falls near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state. Authorities say Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state has received the highest snowfall in 20 years as of Jan. 3, 2022. The Washington State Department of Transportation said by Monday afternoon, Jan. 3, 2022, 236 inches of snowfall was recorded, more than the 229 inches by Jan. 3 that was recorded in 2007 and 212 inches in 2004.  (Ted S. Warren)
FILE - Washington Dept. of Transportation snow plows work on a stretch of eastbound Interstate Highway 90, Dec. 9, 2021, as snow falls near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state. Authorities say Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state has received the highest snowfall in 20 years as of Jan. 3, 2022. The Washington State Department of Transportation said by Monday afternoon, Jan. 3, 2022, 236 inches of snowfall was recorded, more than the 229 inches by Jan. 3 that was recorded in 2007 and 212 inches in 2004. (Ted S. Warren)

Washington State University’s Pullman campus has cancelled classes Monday and Tuesday to kick off the spring semester amid concerns with highway conditions due to weather.

A number of students preparing to return to campus from across the state were worried about the the conditions of the roadways, particularly the mountain passes, following bouts of severe winter weather that largely began overnight Thursday.

The state Department of Transportation has closed all mountain passes connecting the west and east sides of the state until at least Sunday due to snow slides, downed trees and the threat of avalanches. By Thursday evening, WSDOT crews hoped to spend Friday addressing avalanche issues to create a safe work zone for plowing, clearing catch basins and other work needed to reopen the passes.

All other WSU campuses, including Spokane, remain scheduled to start spring semester classes Monday, weather permitting.

WSU is not alone in adjusting for the weather impacts.

Eastern Washington University administrators has temporarily suspended the “drop due to non-attendance” section of the classroom attendance policy, granting students some leniency for attendance during the first few days of class. Students who are unable to attend class are encouraged to contact their instructors directly.

WSU administrators fielded some concerns about the weather Thursday during a livestreamed COVID-19 town hall hosted ahead of the spring semester. Many of the public comments during the livestream pertained to weather , with individuals calling on the university to go virtual for the first week of classes.

University officials are encouraging students to have a plan in place when traveling.

“This is not your typical summertime trip over the mountains. It’s always going to be more challenging in the winter. If a student is concerned that they’re not going to make it on time, we want them to be safe, first and foremost. We don’t want them to travel if it is not safe to travel,” said Phil Weiler, a WSU spokesman.

In 2017, two students were killed in crashes while on their way back to WSU for the spring semester.

Ever since those crashes, a group formed of representatives for the university, relevant county departments and the state Department of Transportation meets throughout the year – but particularly around this time – to help promote awareness about the road conditions, Weiler said.

In all cases involving inclement weather, Weiler said students can reach out to their professors if they believe they might miss class due to travel challenges.

“The vast majority of faculty are going to be understanding,” he said. “There are some courses, for example like labs, where you need to physically be there to be able to do the work.”

Doug Call, chair of the Faculty Senate, said details about unexpected or uncontrollable absences will be worked out.

“Grading is always a challenge when students are unable to attend class due to weather or illness, but we’re not new to this and we are pretty clever when it comes to working out equitable solutions,” Call said. “The best advice is to communicate clearly with your instructors.”

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