Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seattle Public Schools cower before the snow; Spokane Schools stand stoic

Posted By on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Poor, poor, students of the Spokane Public School district. If their vision were good enough, while staring wistfully out the windows from third-period Algebra, they could see their peers from the Seattle Public School District, laughing and building snowmen and frolicking gaily in the powder. 

Spokane Public Schools refused to shut down today. Seattle Public Schools, on the other hand, announced those words every child has their ears glued to the radio to hear: "School has been canceled due to weather conditions."

"Our freeways get pretty crazy with people who don’t know how to drive in the snow," Seattle Public School spokeswoman Teresa Wippel says "Two inches drives people into a panic and everyone shuts down."

But before we Spokanites get too full of ourselves, consider all the other elements that makes snow a problem for Seattle. As in: There's much more traffic and, thus, a much greater chance of collisions. The ice wreaks havoc on traffic on all those hills. One school, Queen Anne, is atop a very steep hill.

When one road is closed due to an accident in Spokane, detours are easy. But with bridge-bound Seattle, an accident or too much snow in the wrong place can be devastating to traffic flow. Because of airflow, bridges tend to get extra icy.  Many Seattlites, presumably, don't own snow tires.

"Nothing takes precedence over the safety for students," Wippel says. 

So does the Spokane School District hate kids?

Nope. At Spokane Public Schools, there are similar student-focused considerations, but with a different perspective. 

"We know that in this community the safest place for most of our children is school," spokesman Terren Roloff says. It's warm and stable, and there's food. "Sixty percent of our population does qualify for free or reduced meals. ... It’s a hard-working community. So many people work outside of the home."

In the last 14 years, Roloff says, there have been only nine "snow days" in Spokane Public Schools, all within a two-year period.

Here, Roloff says, the questions are: Are all facilities up and running? Do the schools have heat and power? Are the sidewalks walkable and the school entrances plowed? This morning, all those questions were answered satisfactorily, Roloff says.

"Our goal is to ALWAYS to have school... We're not Seattle," Roloff says. "We're used to this." 

So what about tomorrow? Will there be a snow day tomorrow? Pleeeaaase? 

"Looking outside right now, I’d say a very slim chance," Roloff says. 

Sorry, kids.  

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...