Portola Jr/Sr High School teacher Stacy Saez captured this snowy campus scene on Wednesday, Jan. 11 during one of the many recent storms to hit Plumas County.

Canceled, delayed or open: Atmospheric River storms complicate PUSD’s decisions

By Cary Dingel,

[email protected]

Among researchers, California’s winters are notoriously hard to predict because of the variability of the state’s weather, and this year is no exception. “This winter has brought us a lot of rain and snow, which is great for our lakes, reservoirs and snowpack, but it makes starting some school days more challenging than others,” said Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent William Roderick. “In terms of determining whether we have an inclement weather day or a delayed start, as a district we have protocols that we follow in our attempt to ensure student and staff safety.”

Long before families and staff are notified by phone, text, and email of the day’s school status, Roderick, along with Assistant Superintendent Kristy Warren, Transportation Supervisor Kyle Bakker and Maintenance Supervisor Ray Bakker have been up – working on collecting information needed to make a decision.

Roderick says, “We do not make these decisions lightly – we understand the impact they have on families and we appreciate everyone’s patience in these situations.”

In a district with four distinct regions and weather patterns, each school site may be experiencing different conditions that need to be assessed. Indian Valley may have light slush on the road, while in Chester it’s actively snowing with chain controls.  Quincy may have clear roads but also a power outage at one of the school sites. Portola’s schools may have feet of snow that need to be removed before buses and staff can safely arrive.

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A standard operating procedure has been developed to efficiently gather, record, and analyze data points from each region.

Superintendent Roderick says, “I’m starting around 4 a.m. to collect information from a variety of online resources like the Caltrans map, updates from CHP on accidents and road safety, and also with staff in different parts of the county.” Roderick logs the data into a spreadsheet to determine what should happen in each community.

A few of the factors that Roderick and his team consider to determine school day status are posted chain controls, current road conditions, temperatures, and weather predictions. “Our school bus drivers start their day at 6 a.m., so we finalize our plan before that,” says Roderick. While it’s sometimes difficult to know what the day will bring, he adds, “As a team, we make the best decisions we can with the information we have at that time.”