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Will they *ever* go back to school?


It wasn't even midnight before day one of snow days when I looked at the forecast for the week and had to ask: will they have any school before January? Portland Public Schools isn't known for making children and staff get to school when there is any ice on the roads or sidewalks, and I know from long experience that snow + frozen temperatures + Portland, Oregon means zero relief from icy conditions. (I am just old enough to remember the great ice storm of 1979, which kept my Taylor Street home sparkly and slick and kept me home -- though my elementary school was only a block-and-a-half away).

So I worried over the forecast, freezing temperatures all week, more snow on Wednesday and Thursday, and expect that our kids won't go back to school until school's out for the holiday. This had me frantic with rather inconsequential anxiety. What about those last-week-before-Christmas craft fairs and art projects and holiday concerts? How will I get the teachers the brilliant gifts I'd planned? (A few tokens for the Portland Farmer's Market along with a card listing my favorite vendors and the schedule for 2009.) Will the last farmer's market of the year even happen? (I know, nothing to do with school, but it's my fear nonetheless.)

Then last night, a surprise: the east-siders were going to school today, so my little one was packed off on his very early bus (no west-siders to pick up). Of course, my teacher gifts weren't yet ready so I'm now hoping for beautiful (cold) weather on Friday. [Update: PPS announced no school tomorrow, Wednesday, December 17.] One of the teachers on my Twitter stream announced only about half of her students were in class today; so many parents are calling this week a snow week, regardless of PPS openings. Do you dread or yearn for an extra whole week of vacation? What do you think of the east side / west side division (as if we weren't already divided enough)? What silly anxieties are you harboring? And are you as tired of bundling and un-bundling as me? (I have a blog post going on about that topic in my head...)


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Defiantly tired of bundling and unbundling! As
far as yearning for more snow or vacation, I say no! Its been somewhat of a nightmare for us with daycare closed and the hubby and I having conflicting work schedules. We've practically had to row-sham-bo who will be calling into work. If only the dog could babysit our toddler! With finances already tight and work giving us a scowl its more bleak than a winter wonderland. Heres looking forward to warmer weather!

This canceling school/daycare (mine follow PPS)buisness is not cool in my book. Portlanders are spoiled. We shut down with a sprnkling of ice or snow. Other cities keep on trucking with 3+ feet of snow! I pray we still have school/daycare all this week and next Tue/Wed. Many familes mine included cannot afford these days off. For me I can work from home...if I am alone. My lil guy running around oh it makes it to hard! I did yesterday and I almost lost my mind!

Jen, row-sham-bo is a great system. It's such a hard thing when schools/daycares are closed and the parents need to work. We do something like the possession ball in basketball: my turn, then yours, then mine again.

I am bracing myself for a whole snow week and hate the idea. It will be my last few work days before the 2-week school break, and I am swamped. I am also WAY behind on getting a few little gifts for family, and I am scared of the roads and feel unable to run errands. Finally, there is NO WAY I can come up with enough fantastic crafty activities for two kids for 8 hours a day for every day this week.

As to the question of eastside vs westside - I think the distinction doesn't necessarily make sense. We have friends who live a block from Sabin (NE) on a steep, steep hill. Their road conditions are slick, but the school is open today. Our school is in the River District (NW), considered a westside school, and is closed today, although downtown roads are relatively clear. I know it's hard to make these decisions, so I'm not blaming. It's just hard all around.

Looking out on this sunny clear day, it's hard for me to understand how a few inches on Sunday could shut down our city so heftily. It's frustrating and I would love to learn more about how/why the city of Portland can't clear the streets to make them safe for us to bike, walk, drive on.

Portland "snow days" are really frustrating for our family on several levels.

I hit a car last week on the way to preschool--I'd hate to think of driving those narrow, car & bus packed roads in the snow and ice. To compound problems, my little guy is afraid of snow. I'd just as well just stay home with him.

But my heart goes out to people who have to take off work to take care of their little ones. I wish I could help you out.

I have an older kid, so daycare worries are not what they used to be (but y'all--I feel your pain--I remember). But I have to work regardless, have a ton of deadlines, and do want my kid in school--especially with the 2 week break looming.

I was actually glad to see the eastside openings-westside closures. Actually, that distinction doesn't matter, what I liked was PPS thinking it through better than they have historically and targeting schools for closure as needed, instead of making a blanket decision. No system will ever be perfect, but this is better than in the past.

The closures are driving me crazy - how can PPS call off schools the night before, when the precipitation hasn't even started? A lot can happen in 12 hours. What a bunch of wimps.

The principals at my kids' elementary and middle schools actually told the kids today that school would most likely be closed tomorrow, and probably Thurs & Fri, too. Hey, way to foster a love of school in your students, people.

I agree with AJ- many other cities manage with much more formidable winter weather. Portland's school year is already short enough as it is - they need to come up with a better system.

As for me, I work from home, and I guess I won't be getting anything done for the rest of 2008.


I'm furious. We've just found a great in-home preschool & my son loves it, but...yep, following PPS (she has a middle- and a high-schooler, so I guess that drives her decision--though, really, can't they fend and/or do crafts w/the kids, etc.?). Now what?? He is so sad not to be there & can't understand why in Dec there are so many "no-school-days." And we're paying HOW much IN ADVANCE for, what, 10 days of friggin' preschool this month? We both work and have zero leave. Now what? I know the latter issue will still be a problem come K; but paying directly for 20-22 days +/- in advance only to lose a bunch because of lame PPS policies... INFURIATING! (Yeah, I know, property tax is equiv to paying for public school in advance, but that seems so indirect; and doesn't PPS make up snow days sometimes? preschool doesn't!)

Other cities who make it to school in 3 feet of snow also have a fleet of snow plows.

PPS just called off school for tomorrow; many of the surround districts made that decision several hours before PPS announced its decision.

It IS a pain, but there are many other places I would rather my tax dollars go than to snow plows that we MAY need one week a year, or not at all.

Admittedly, I do think I am going to go stir-crazy if we are snowed in all week!

I actually appreciate it that schools and other facilities cancel. Portlanders, in general, are a sad and sorry lot on the road in icy conditions. And I say that having grown up here.

Half of us, having only experienced snow and ice once or twice a year, are terrified of the snow and ice, and our fear makes us dangerous on the road. The other half own four wheel drives that they don't actually know how to operate, and their confidence makes them dangerous, too. Guess what, people? Four wheel drive helps you get going, but it doesn't help you stop!

However, I must say in the interest of full disclosure, that I am a public employee, so when schools close, I my workplace usually closes, too. So I don't have the daycare issues to worry about that many of you do. I'm sorry your experiencing this!

I work for a private school downtown and we generally follow PPS in deciding closure days. I have to say, that for tomorrow, we really struggled with the thought of closing for a third day in a row. However, with a 90% chance of snow and possibly freezing rain tomorrow, it is scary to think of our staff and families getting on the road to make their way to and from school. Ultimately we just want everyone to be safe.

"Portlanders, in general, are a sad and sorry lot on the road in icy conditions. And I say that having grown up here."

I totally agree with SJ here.

A lot of people here have a hard time driving in the rain let alone the snow and on ice. Today I decided to pull over and let the a$$ h@#e behind me pass b/c he was tailgating on a icy road! He actually gave me a dirty look as he passed, talking on his cell.

I also think that since the winters seem to be getting worse when it does snow, that Portland needs to have a better system to implement. People need to be able to get to work...we depend on our jobs and the money we bring in. And for the amount of money people spend on daycares, they SHOULD be open or refund for those days they close and parents have to stay home from work. Parents don't need to pay someone else if they are doing the job themselves!

I remember my first snow in Chicago, in October.

"Will they close school?" I asked (this was college).

"Uh, no," answered my roommate, from Wisconsin, who looked at me like I had three heads.

I don't think Portlanders are wimps. We don't salt the roads and we don't have the fleet of private snow plows that midwestern and eastern cities have.

And the people who can't drive in the rain? Californians.


I'm feeling the pinch with childcare and trying to get business done. I have to call off an important meeting tomorrow with an eager partner and a prospect because, even though they'll have their Ranger Rovers, I can't ask my team to risk their and their children's lives by coming into downtown for a meeting that can easily be postponed. They won't be happy. But there it is.

Yup. I have a job interview tomorrow and it has been a huge, huge juggle to figure out where our daughter will be -- and that's just for a few hours, not a whole day! There should be more neighborhood snow day cooperatives, or something!

Talking to fellow workers around the country online today, it seems that in snowy places they not only have the snow plows and salt trucks, but also have "snow tires" (who knew?) as well as the spiked tire option we have here. Not to mention the midwest at least is flat as a pancake. I visited a client today in Eastmoreland and I was all over that road skidding at different angles! scary! all wheel drive doesn't help if there is no traction to be had.

every year on snow days you see people going sideways down 26th hitting tons of stranded cars... it really is sketchy out there.

I'm glad they decided to close tomorrow. We were watching the forecasts all day and thinking, why haven't they called it yet? We decided by mid-afternoon that we would keep our daughter home no matter what. It's obviously going to be icy sooner or later, so what happens if it's later? Do they strap a plow to the front of the school bus and hold on tight? Wait, that's not a bad idea...strapping plows to the school buses...I mean, without the kids on board. Well, there are not a whole lot of plows, but plenty of school buses with nowhere to be... Just a thought.

I grew up in New York, where we almost never got snow days. I guess they figured, if the subways are running, no excuses. But it's different here because of the rain. Sure, we could all manage with a bit of soft crunchy snow, but it's usually raining before it snows, meaning ice under the snow, and that's just plain dangerous. It may be inconvenient, but I'd rather PPS plays it safe when it's my five year old on the school bus.

I grew up back east and we salted (I guess no salmon in boston) and they plowed- you always heard the plows at 5 am. But although we could get 2 feet of snow and still go to school we didnt get the ice that Portland gets. It is a totally different thing here with ice.

Funny- now one here talks about shoveling snow...

sorry but the thread became kind of weather focused so I had to chime in.

I will plan on working from home and if possible to drive to Vancouver for a few hours of work and get grandpa to watch my child.

I grew up in eastern OR and we would laugh at the Portland news as they freaked out over an inch or two of snow. We had snow most of the winter & if you didn't drive in it you would never go to school. But the roads were plowed & we had snow tires & practice in snow. Now that I live here I understand the snow induced freak out. Luckily my little guy isn't in school yet & I had to work the weekend, so staying home the rest if this week is turning out to be pretty convenient. Still, I'm ready for the snow to leave. Snow is one reason I don't live in eastern OR anymore.

Nope, no pain here. Kids are older and I'm a SAHM. One kid plays out all day with buddies and sled.. the other kid finds another good book. Hubby and I braved the "putting chains" on the car yesterday and headed to Freddie's for supplies, but otherwise we are staying put. Hubby works in the software industry and can work from via the internet. So cool. So I won't get the holiday cards out.. and Soup and Solstice this year may just be for the neighbors who can walk to my house on Sunday.. I'm warm and cozy.

BTW, we moved here from Atlanta, another city that shuts down completely with snow and ice, so we've done this old routine many times.

philomom, I am from here originally, but lived in Atlanta (and Savannah) for about 15 years total. Talk about a city that shuts down during a dribble of snow! The bread and milk are completely wiped out at the stores (always made me wonder--what IS it that all those people were doing with all of that bread and milk?!French toast?). I also noticed that gas stations would tend to "run out" of regular and mid-grade gas and would only have premium on offer.

Okay, I'm cracking up at your comment, Sheryl, about the bread and milk. It's so true! It must be French toast because my husband went to Safeway last night and got the last package of eggs. It was 9pm and he said it looked like a tornado had blown through the store!

Ha ha, I bought extra eggs from New Seasons so that I could leave some outside for the hungry raccoons. I guess I should go the extra mile and put out french toast for them.

I agree with Sharai, I'd much rather have our tax dollars go somewhere other than buying snow plows and salt trucks. Storms this bad only happen once every few years.

I love the French toast comment too! I used to live in Charlotte and it was the same way there. storm coming (usually a hurricane) and the Harris Teeter dairy and bread aisles would look like they'd been hit by French looters. I guess the Portland equivalent is soy milk and avocados ;)

"Hey, way to foster a love of school in your students, people."
Fembot, I don't think school closures due to weather has anything to do with fostering a love of school or not.

For full disclosure, I'm a public school teacher, so I am at home with my kids this week. I love it--we've made playdough, created & wrapped presents for family, watched movies, written holiday cards, baked cookies, danced around to holiday music (downloaded more to spice things up), had fires in the fireplace, gone on snow walking adventures. How often does this happen???

2 years ago my district did not close schools during a similar snow storm. They reconsiderend after a couple hours and had to figure out how to get thousands of kids home before things got any worse. Buses had already slid stranding kids several blocks from school. Teachers and staff were on their own, and we had harrowing drives home. Most everyone I knew in the private sector had stayed home that day it was so ridiculous. I would much rather schools play it safe than risk lives of kids, parents, and anyone else on the road.

No one has brought up the idea of flexibility in the work place for events like this. Once again our job-centered focus jumbles our priorities--seems like we could use some help from our employers in times like this.

It's been hard! The weather just doesn't seem to want to cooperate and now I'm imagining that, even when the snow melts, it'll be hard to do all my chores (shopping, etc.) before Christmas.

I wanted to mention that our nanny agency, Care Givers Placement Agency is still sending nannies out to registered families. We have less nannies available on snow days - some are stuck home just like the rest of us - but some are definately travelling to jobs.

And it's a great resource for you once the weather gets better and you want to get out yourself and do some shopping....or just relieve some cabin fever!

Our staff has been working from home so access to email is nil. You won't be able to register online. You'll have to call and leave a message if you want to hire a temporary nanny. Someone will return your call. 503-244-6370

I agree, j.m. -- what we need is better community around sharing the load with child care, and employers who can understand the struggle, more than blaming the teachers for preparing the students for the probable snow days.

I very much wish that we could have sent everett to school today, but amazingly enough, he's upstairs in his little art nook, organizing all his papers from the past 18 months. totally on his own. no complaints here!

We're working on a story for Thursday's Oregonian about how parents are dealing with all the snow days. If anyone would be willing to be interviewed for the story, please contact us as soon as possible. Thank you!
Suzanne Pardington
503-412-7054, spardington@news.oregonian.com
Betsy Hammond
503-294-7623, betsyhammond@news.oregonian.com

so how ya'll feeling now that we got absolutely NOTHING in terms of this supposed bad weather? me? ANNOYED.

Hmm, I wouldn't say nothing where I am in the SW hills. We are literally stuck in our hillside homes with ice and snow making the roads impossible to drive on without chains or such. I doubt I've seen 7 cars leave my 54 house subdivision these past three or four days.

Rocks, paper, scissors with my husband . . . you know how it goes. In healthcare we are always open. Nurses stay round the clock and can't leave until the next shift comes in. Patients get stuck and can't leave the hospital. Physicians are frustrated, but luckily most don't have daycare issues. I am thankful that I don't have work tomorrow to complicate issues and furthermore I have a wonderful daycare that very rarely closes. It is sorta sad that in each of these scenerios the employer is not as concerned about the safety of the employee. Hope that the weather calms down before friday or it is my husbands turn to stay home or pick up the kiddo early. Best of luck to all those working out there and furthermore, best of luck to all . . .cabin fever is setting in.

Annoyed and Frustrated. With Holiday Trip to the Fam coming up, I get to choose between taking unpaid days this week or using my vacation and taking unpaid days off next week. Why is my husband always out of town when my son must stay home (illness, snow day, teacher inservice, etc.). Its SO his turn.

I'm with the teacher that posted, j.m. I think we work for the same district, only I am a mom and a school bus driver. Some things parents might not think about... The first year I drove a school bus I picked up a load of children, and I do mean a load, filled up an 84 passenger bus at one apartment complex. One child I picked up was crying. He had no coat on (it was like 20 degrees). I asked his brother where is coat was, he said he didn't have one. I wrapped him up in mine and walked him into his school when we got there, and made sure they got him one out of his school's clothes closet. A lot of children are in this situation.
Having them in the cold is one of the things considered when closing school. There are many other safety concerns.
Kids fall down a lot on slick streets. Think about kids walking to school....
Buses tend to slide to the outside of the road when coming to a stop due to the fact that roads slop to allow water to drain off (even when chained), so make sure your kids stand well back from the road and wait until the bus is at a FULL stop to approach.
Cars rear end buses on nice days all the time. The buses usually don't have a scratch on them, while the car is totaled. I think it happened three times last week alone. They also try and beat the red lights just like they do at stop lights. Add this together with kids not checking or waiting for the driver to tell them to cross and a little ice, and well you get the picture.
School buses fuel tanks are in the back of the bus, making them tail heavy. Good for going up hill with drop chains, but really bad for going downhill in ice. I have had to put a bus in the ditch to avoid a worse accident when hitting ice going down hill. It is really traumatic for kids, however. This happened on a morning that school shouldn't have been going, but was.
The school bus is still safer than a car. My kids are in high school now, but I make them take the bus on questionable mornings.
It is really hard to keep a fleet of buses running in extreme cold. It kills alternators, batteries, and lights on the buses. It is really bad to have one break down in extreme cold weather with a load of kids. While I can sympathize with the wages lost, I do appreciate it when the districts put our kids safety first.

J.M. and M.L.,

I just want to say I appreciate your care and concern for the children. I would much rather have my son safe and sound and warm at school when it gets really snowy and icy. I don't drive, my husband can drive our son when he is home or in between work appointments but I worry about walking him when it's icy and freezing out.


Sorry! I meant safe at HOME not school. Obviously I need another cup of coffee.


I meant safe at home not school. Sorry need another cup of coffee.

Is PPS serious? Yesterday, rain, no school (canceled the night before even). Today, actual snow, school's on.

My family back east thought it was hysterical that Portland (where they literally think it rains every day) got canceled due to rain...

Several area schools (mostly private right now) are changing to cancellation today. I spoke with someone at PPS who said that transportation and admin are talking about what to do. And our school secretary told me that the PONY drivers have been called back.

I decided about 15 minutes ago to wait an hour before schlepping the child to school only to have a reversal at 10:00.

They seem to have re-posted that school is ON.
In my head, Cher is singing "If I could turn back time."
I want yesterday back to run all those errands that had to get pushed aside!

I just have to chime in about the difference between snow in Portland & the eastern regions. My college boyfriend from Chicago used to ridicule us silly Oregonians until he was driving here & his car started sliding backwards while stopped. It's just different conditions here & a couple of degrees difference can make all the difference. As far as school closures go I just thank my lucky stars that my mother-in-law is with us this winter & the kids are just hanging out at home with her. I've offered to friends that they're welcome to drop off their kids with her if needed. That's what we need around here...more grandmas!

My Dad joked last night that the reason Portland doesn't salt is that the people who run the city can't figure out a way to salt from bicycles. Good one, Dad!

i suspect that i work for the same district as j.m. and m.l. so, full disclosure, i'm a teacher. i am also a parent and i empathize with families who have to figure out what to do on the fly when school or care is cancelled. sometimes you really feel like you have no options and i have certainly been in that situation myself. i understand how it might look when a district closes before a storm even hits--and then the storm doesn't make it, but 2 years ago my district didn't call it (but all neighboring others did) and so there we all were--buses full of kids, teachers and families in cars--sliding our way to school. it took me an hour & a half to go what usually takes 12 minutes. buses slid off the road, had to stop at different locations other than the school. my favorite image of all...the "children crossing" sign snapped off at the base and knocked over by a car that then slid into a ditch in front of my school. early start kids were already stuck at school, which was then understaffed because people could not get there even close to on time. my car slid downhill backwards while i tried to get home after the district called off school for the day. it may seem suspicious to close before it all hits the fan, but if you don't and you mess up, it's a lot worse. although this amount of snow doesn't close schools in other places, this city isn't regularly prepared for or experienced with it.

Nope. They are never going back.

Seriously, I get the ice but what about proposing a delayed start? Spokane got almost 2 feet of snow but my offices up there are open.

I LOVE having more time at home with my kids - I don't see nearly enough of them and the reason I had them is to raise them myself.

We have been baking, knitting, decorating, wrapping, reading by the fire, putting on plays, playing board games, playing music and playing in the snow together. I just can't imagine they'd be having a richer experience going to school for an extra four days!

thanks for your comment, erin.

my family also loves the extra days off and a chance to spend time together at home.

It's hard on those of us who *have* to work, especially when work stays open and daycare doesn't. My leave has been decimated by my maternity leave, and with closed daycare it has been a real struggle this week passing our daughter back and forth throughout the school/workday.

Luckily, I have my own office where I can play with her while my husband has meetings in the next building over, and a very understanding boss (used to be a single parent).

I doubt anyone who is frustrated by the school closures is really lamenting the time to spend with their children ("Oh, darn, hate spending time with that kid of mine! I'd much rather be working!"), but in our already jam-packed lives, it's hard to get by when the weather throws a wrench into routines.

I love how the mothers who talk about the fun they've had with their kids this past week all seem to have kids who are old enough to engage in activities. I'd love to bake with my kids, wrap gifts, do crafts, take walks in the snow, play board games, blah blah blah with my two year old and 11 month old, but they're not quite there yet. Outings as a method of distraction are a regular part of our existence, and there's only so much you can do when limited to the house. My experience has been a little different though. We were coming off of ten days of illnesses when the snow and ice hit, so the work/child care juggling act has been going on in our house for about three weeks now. Ack!!!

My son's daycare didn't close a day this week and my work was pretty flexible in terms of closing or opening the office early or late. We can't control the weather, so we just adjust with a smile and remember the snow will eventually go away. I've managed to make it from Portland to Vancouver with no major issues or car wrecks every day this week as well.

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