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Oregon Schools Take To Social Media When Making Snow Day Decisions

Decisions on snow days Thursday varied from district to district, but the common theme across western Oregon schools was their use of social media.

Officials in the Salem-Keizer School District tweeted out video clips of their middle-of-the-night test drive of road conditions. The dark dashcam footage showed wet streets and snowy banks.

By Thursday afternoon, that video had nearly 3,500 views — not bad for a Twitter account with fewer than 5,600 followers.

The driving video drew a handful of responses, including several directed at district officials: “Two hour delay?? That looks unsafe!”

And an apparent student saying, “When making your decision, just remember about all the high school students that drive to school and have bad tires like myself. I don’t want to skid across the road just trying to get my education.”

Salem-Keizer stayed open Thursday.

But snow day decisions were all over the map, with nearly every district in Multnomah County deciding to close. That included the David Douglas School District, where a similar evaluation was conducted in the pre-dawn hours Thursday.

A David Douglas spokesman said officials had to predict at 5 a.m. what conditions would be more than two hours later, when more than 3,000 students would be headed to the state’s largest high school.

Like Salem-Keizer, David Douglas officials said they have also stepped up their use of social media, seeing some of the highest activity on their Twitter and Facebook accounts when snow might close school. They’re trying to stay in touch with parents and students at those times, too — sometimes proactively, like this tweet sent out early Tuesday, as storms were threatening the region:

Portland Public Schools was the only school district in Multnomah County to open school Thursday, though students were told to arrive two hours later than usual. PPS spokesman Dave Northfield said top leaders had the same decision to make as David Douglas, though local conditions were slightly different, as were school schedules.

PPS’ efforts to stay in touch via Twitter could sometimes lead to showing the messiness of predicting the weather and of knowing when a decision might be made. Late Tuesday night, just after canceling school for Wednesday, PPS tweeted that a decision for Thursday would be made Wednesday night. But instead, Wednesday night, the PPS Twitter account sent out this message:

Northfield said while district officials struck the right balance of maximizing instructional time and protecting student safety, parents wanted more notice. He said they appreciated hearing there would be a snow day the night before. That sentiment was widely shared on social media.

“Some were less happy Thursday, because they found out Thursday morning, instead of the night before,” Northfield said. 

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