Children take to a snowy street next to Northeast Portland's Sabin School on a snow day, Feb. 21, 2018.

Children take to a snowy street next to Northeast Portland's Sabin School on a snow day, Feb. 21, 2018. With many students enrolled in distance-learning due to COVID-19, snow forecast for Thursday may not lead to canceled classes.

Rob Manning / OPB

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch, in effect Thursday afternoon through Saturday morning in Portland and Vancouver, and in the south Willamette Valley through Friday morning.


For students, a simple forecast of snow used to mean anxious anticipation of a snow day, a day spent playing outdoors or watching the weather from inside — away from schoolwork. In the era of distance learning, that’s not necessarily the case.

Portland Public Schools has announced that delivering instruction online means inclement weather doesn’t have to interrupt instruction. “Student and staff safety is always our highest priority; distance learning means potentially dangerous winter travel to and from school campuses is not necessary,” according to a statement from the district. Inclement weather may interrupt some campus-based activities like meal delivery, limited in-person instruction, and school-based child care.

By Wednesday afternoon, school leaders across the greater Portland metro area hadn’t announced decisions on whether to close school in-person programming on Thursday or Friday.

That includes in Southwest Washington, where more students are attending school in-person.

In the case of bad weather, Evergreen Public Schools students attending in-person school will instead move to full remote learning. If closing school is necessary because of snow or ice, Vancouver Public Schools will “observe two snow days with school closures.” If the closures extend to a third day, the district will move entirely to remote learning.

Child-care providers are in person, even when schools are remote

Many child-care centers have historically relied on school district decisions on weather-related closures. Some child-care facilities are now coming up with a new approach.

Escuela Viva, which operates two sites in Southeast and North Portland, has a lot to consider — how the commute will be impacted for families and staff, including those who take public transit, as well as snow accumulation, and temperatures throughout the day.


“It will not be an easy decision to make and will err on the side of caution,” Escuela Viva administrators wrote in a planned note to families.

If Multnomah County receives more than 2 inches of snow and temperatures are low, administrators plan to first call for a two-hour delay. If temperatures remain below freezing by 9 a.m., and therefore unlikely to melt the snow when it falls, the program will likely close fully.

“School closures and delays are never convenient, and the health and safety of our whole community is at the heart of all of our decision making,” Escuela Viva administrators wrote. “We are providing this information now for families who need to seek alternative care in the event of a delay or closure.”

Tumbleweed Infant and Preschool Houses in Southeast Portland is hoping for an announcement from Portland Public Schools. But in case that doesn’t happen, owner Amy Williams said, decisions may be made on a class by class basis, based on which staff members are able to make it into work.

Discovery Gardens, which operates three facilities in Portland, usually relies on Portland Public Schools, but leaders will make a decision if there’s no announcement.

At KinderCare, a Portland-based chain of child care centers, administrators said they’re keeping an eye on weather forecasts and plan to communicate “often and early” with families, with a goal to remain open if safe to do so.

“So long as our teachers and staff are able to safely travel to our centers, we’ll do our best to stay open during inclement weather.”


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