It will be a historic event that thousands of students carry with them into adulthood – snow day.
For the first time since possibly 1968, the Vernon School District shut down classes Monday and Tuesday because of treacherous snow conditions, as did the North Okanagan-Shuswap and Central Okanagan districts and independent schools.
“It was the amount that came down all at once,” said Joe Rogers, Vernon district superintendent.
Snow levels varied in Vernon and Coldstream and were considerably deeper in Lumby and Cherryville.
There was an initial attempt to open schools Monday but buses were getting stuck in the snow. Parking lots at the schools were also impassable.
“It was about safety first. We had to make sure staff and students could get to school,” said Rogers of the decision to halt classes.
Less than 50 students showed up at Vernon district schools Monday and they were looked after by staff until parents could pick them up.
Rogers was up at 4 a.m. Tuesday and drove around town before deciding to again cancel school.
“I didn’t know where the kids could walk,” he said of areas with no sidewalks or places with sidewalks buried in snow.
“They can’t walk down the middle of the road.”
The goal is to have classes reopen today.
“That’s certainly our wish,” said Rogers.
Like Vernon, the North Okanagan-Shuswap district also attempted to open schools Monday.
“The safety of students and staff is always our highest priority but we also place a high value on student learning and so making a decision to close a school is made with both of these factors in mind,” said superintendent Glenn Borthistle.
“Before 6 a.m. Monday, we checked the status of highways and bus routes and determined that while the status of all roads was compact snow and slippery sections, none of the roads were closed and our buses could operate safely. Additionally, RCMP were contacted to confirm that they had not issued a no driving order.”
Bus drivers launched their routes and reported that road conditions were reasonable. They began picking students up.
“However, once principals began arriving at schools, they reported to me that parking lots were not clear at a number of schools and staff were calling in to say they were having difficulty making it to work. We made the call at 7:42 a.m. to close schools,” said Borthistle.
“Parents of students who were on buses or who had already arrived at school were contacted to ensure that these students arrived home safely.”
Besides the public schools, the Vernon Christian School, St. James School and the Okanagan Indian Band school all closed Monday and Tuesday.