Portland and Beaverton kids were back to school Wednesday, but farther east, winter storms and chilly temperatures are keeping roadways a mess.
The Hood River County School District was closed Wednesday and so were Corbett District schools — those will stay closed Thursday.
The ice, harsh winds and steep hills conspired to keep Corbett Superintendent Randy Trani from even reaching the district campus Wednesday.
"It was so bad (Tuesday night) that I have my pickup truck actually chained to a tree," Trani said. "I live on a very steep property. The wind was just blowing it down the ice, while it sat there. So, I'm totally blocked in. I can't even get the two miles to the school."
But the icy roads and driveways are only part of the problem for Corbett, a school district of about 1,100 students at the eastern end of Multnomah County.
Trani said there are three problems with the buildings that need to be addressed before students can safely return: The water’s frozen at the grade school, there’s a heating problem at the high school and there’s a hole in the gym roof. He doesn’t know when they’ll re-open. Late Wednesday afternoon, Corbett officially canceled school for Thursday.
“I keep hoping for tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, so now I guess I’m hoping for Friday," Trani said. "The big one will be the gym, getting that hole fixed. We’ve had a crew out for the last two days, but it’s just too dangerous for them to get up on the roof.”
The Columbia River Gorge was doused in a fresh layer of ice Tuesday night that left nearby Interstate 84 closed from Troutdale to Hood River.
Still, schools have minimum instructional hours to meet.
Trani said adding days to the calendar can be difficult, logistically and politically, because it requires negotiation with employee unions. State officials may announce rule changes this week offering “flexibility” given the weather.
The latest cancellation brings Corbett to nine lost days — equal to Portland, Beaverton and Hillsboro — but one day short of Parkrose, the district with the most snow days in the greater Portland area.
Many teachers are concerned about lost instructional time, hours they'll have to spend on review and the challenge of getting back into the routine.
Corbett is trying to confront that problem with a request that has gone out with each of its recent closure announcements: "Please read for a half an hour and do one lesson of math."
Trani knows that his own children — high schoolers — are following the request. He gets the sense from watching social media that some families are following suit.
"There was one that a mom posted, her daughter was saying, 'Well, Mr. Randy says we have to do some homework today,'" said Trani. "I think she was a first or second grader and she sat herself down and was trying to do some reading by herself."