Storms closed Whatcom schools. So how much longer might the school year go?

Mount Baker music teacher sings ‘Snow Day’ after classes are called off -- again

Mount Baker High School music teacher Doug Sutton sings “Snow Day” -- a song he wrote after classes were called off for a third straight day Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019.
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Mount Baker High School music teacher Doug Sutton sings “Snow Day” -- a song he wrote after classes were called off for a third straight day Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019.

What will Whatcom County schools do to make up for school days that were missed because of snow and ice?

School superintendents said they’re still trying to figure that out, and are waiting to see what more Mother Nature might throw at the county in the coming days and weeks.

“We have not made any decisions as we may not be out of the woods yet,” Jim Frey, superintendent for the Lynden School District, said Thursday.

School districts in Whatcom County were closed Thursday for the fourth straight day because of snow and icy conditions.

Bellingham schools were still closed Friday while the Lynden School District started two hours late. Other school districts were closed for previously scheduled days off, such as for mid-winter break.

On Friday, Bellingham schools remained closed because sidewalks where students walk and back roads in parts of the city remained icy and treacherous. The Bellingham School District announced the closure Thursday.

Greg Baker, superintendent for the Bellingham School District, said he has been answering emails from unhappy parents.

Snow was cleared from the Columbia Elementary School entrance on Thursday. School superintendents are still considering what Whatcom County schools will do to make up for school days that have been missed because of snow and ice. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

He acknowledged that many families missed work because of snow days and that some wanted the school district to let each family decide whether it was safe to get to school.

“That said, when we’re talking about thousands of kids at risk, whether by walking in the middle of the street, slipping on icy, dangerous sidewalks or our buses not able to even get safely to snow pick up locations, I believe it’s in our collective interest to close school,” he stated in the announcement.

School districts also have snow days from earlier storms.

Baker has told families that school could extend through the week of June 17, depending on what the weather does. That means graduations could occur around the weekend of June 14 and 15. It wouldn’t be the first time Bellingham graduations had to be moved because of wintry weather. That happened back in the 2016-2017 school year, according to the district.

At Meridian Middle School, the impact on the school year from a total of five snow days wasn’t yet known.

“There’s still more of February to go,” said James Everett, superintendent of the Meridian School District. “I’m hesitant to speak about where we are with respect to the calendar because we don’t know how much more of this we have to come.”

He added: “We are in a holding pattern and trying to make sure that our kids are safe and we can get them here and really hopeful that we can get out of this weather pattern.”

Mary Sewright, superintendent for the Mount Baker School District, said the district had six snow days as of Thursday.

“We are studying options to meet our required instructional time,” Sewright said. “Therefore, the days may or may not be made up at the end of the school year.”

Blaine and Ferndale school districts are working on a plan.

Superintendents said they will consider or apply for a waiver from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for missed school days because of this week’s winter storm, which Gov. Jay Inslee declared as a statewide emergency.

“Once the weather clears up, we will be working with the state to see if we can receive waivers for some of the missed days, with the goal of avoiding taking school into the following week of June 24,” Baker said in a post on the district’s website. “I have heard from a number of you about vacations and graduation plans, so I know it’s on folks’ minds.“

The waiver days are part of tentative plans for Nooksack Valley schools, where students have missed five days this winter because of bad weather.

Two snow days will be taken care of with previously designated makeup days on Feb. 28 and March 1, according to Superintendent Mark Johnson.

The district planned to apply for two waiver days, Johnson told the Bellingham Herald.

That would leave one day to add to the end of the school year and bump the last day of school to June 14 — provided Mother Nature doesn’t dump more snow on Whatcom County and require schools to close again.

“This is all tentative and dependent on further snow days,” Johnson said.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.