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Let it snow, let it snow ...

Despite the recent rash of snowy weather, the Bremerton School District hasn’t had to close schools. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Despite the recent rash of snowy weather, the Bremerton School District hasn’t had to close schools.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

By WESLEY REMMER

Staff writer

Puget Sound winters are like run-of-the-mill mosquitoes — pesky, persistent, unpleasant — they never go away. And the 2007-08 winter, true to Pacific Northwest calling, has been no different as hit-and-miss snowfall has led to particularly annoying road conditions, especially the past few weeks.

The Bremerton School District was forced to delay most schools Tuesday morning as students and staff were slowed by the dicey roads.

“This winter hasn’t been particularly severe, but there have been some days when we’ve had to make a decision with the schools ... whether or not to delay or cancel them,” said BSD transportation director Doug Wagner.

It is Wagner’s job to track weather patterns, determine if road conditions are too hazardous for BSD buses to drive on and report the information to BSD officials. He uses AccuWeather, an online meteorological tool, to follow the weather hourly.

“I check the weather every night and make a decision on whether snow or ice will be an issue,” Wagner said of the process. “If it looks bad, I’m up at 3:30 a.m. the next morning and on the roads by 4:00 a.m.”

“We get out and travel on as many of the roads as we can,” added Wagner, who drives the routes on the Eastside that district buses use to transport children to and from school.

Wagner said the roads in Bremerton are different than most in Kitsap County, which makes the process of determining their overall safety tricky and sometimes unpredictable.

“Sometimes it’s safe in one area, but not others,” said Wagner, adding that Bremerton’s topography is different than other areas in Kitsap County.

“We have a wide variance of (road) conditions in Bremerton,” he said. “It’s not all rural roads. We have intercity roads, we’re on the water, there are a few things that make Bremerton unique.”

The differences between Bremerton roads and the roads in other school districts force the BSD to make its own decisions in terms of delaying or closing its schools. The BSD communicates with other districts but can’t rely solely upon that information to determine the correct course of action.

“It comes down to what’s best for us,” Wagner said, adding that it is more important to keep students and staff safe than to start school on time. “Safety is definitely our No. 1 concern.”

“We ask ourselves, can we get to this place? Is it safe for the kids? Is it safe for the staff?”

Wagner said the BSD uses “snow routes” when road conditions are too hazardous for buses to make their regular stops. And snow routes, which are modified versions of the regular routes, with fewer stops, ensure a safe commute to school.

Wagner’s road reports are generally available to BSD officials by 5 a.m. and the decision to close or delay school is made by 5:30 a.m.

Up-to-the-minute school delay and closure reports are available on the radio and television, and the BSD posts daily information on its Website, http://bremertonschools.org/

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