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Schools get ready for harsh winter weather

MARYSVILLE — With heavy snowfall and cold temperatures hitting the North Snohomish County region hard, the Marysville School District is gearing up for the impacts of the winter weather, deciding early Wednesday morning to close all of the district's schools on Wednesday,Dec. 17, due to the inclement weather.

Marysville School District Superintendent Larry Nyland explained that such weather results in early mornings for him and several other school district employees.

"Joe Legare, our transportation director, is up at 2:30 a.m., checking our most hazardous routes," Nyland said. "Those are the ones that have a lot of traffic, or that we know can cause problems. He checks with other school districts' transportation directors to see how they're responding, he checks the weather reports to see if temperatures are rising or falling, and then, at 4:30 a.m., he calls me, and we talk about our options."

According to Nyland, the school district has three options: open on time, close, or open two hours late. The reason for this enforced simplicity is because the school district's decision needs to be communicated quickly and clearly to the parents of approximately 11,000 students, often through media such as the text crawl on television stations. The problem with this is that, as on Dec. 15, not all students will necessarily be affected in the same way by bad weather.

"On Monday, a lot of the roads were good, except in the east and the west," Nyland said. "We had parents calling to tell us that their roads were fine, but they weren't fine for a lot of folks in more hilly areas. Our first and foremost concern in making this decision is the safety of the children."

By 5 a.m., the decision to open on time, close or open late is made and posted on the school district's Web site, at www.msvl.k12.wa.us, after which school district employees are notified through calling trees. The media, including The Marysville Globe (which posts school delays and closings on its Web site at www.marysvilleglobe.com), picks up on this news from the Web site, and if schools are opening, either on time or late, school district employees work to make sure that students and staff will be safe driving or walking on school district property.

While Nyland is willing to discuss decisions to close or delay the opening of schools on the days afterward, he encouraged parents and community members to get their news about such closures or delayed openings from the media and the school district's Web site during the days that they happen. On the day of a school closure or delayed opening, the school district switchboard is typically so inundated with calls that few, if any, are able to be answered properly.

"If it's a judgement call, where some neighborhoods are fine but others are not, we're probably going to open two hours late," Nyland said. "Hopefully, that will result in less traffic on the roads, and more daylight for the kids to be seen by drivers, when they're transported to school. I understand the frustration of parents who are coping with getting themselves to work and their kids to school, but we're doing the best that we can to ensure their children's safety."

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