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Transportation

Ice and Snow

Seattle Schools Transportation Adverse Weather Plan

From time to time throughout the school year, weather may force a change in the district’s normal operating routines.

The safety of your children is our primary concern.

Snow & Ice Information

If snow and ice conditions impact school operations, a robocall and an email notification will be sent out in SchoolMessenger between 5-6 a.m. advising either:

  • School will run a two-hour late start and transportation will operate using snow routes
  • School is canceled
Graphic of a cloud with rain falling, there is an exclamation point in the cloud

Weather Alert Reminders

Winter Weather: How to find out if your school will have schedule changes due to ice or snow.

Learn more about weather alert reminders

Two-Hour Late Start

When a two-hour late start is called, school bus service will operate only for full-day, in-district general education, special education, preschool, and Head Start students. Please refer to Seattle Public Schools (SPS) for program-specific operating information.

There will be no out-of-district transportation for McKinney-Vento, Nonpublic Agencies (NPA), or Community Based Organizations (CBO). Field trips and sporting events are also canceled.

Seattle Skills Center morning sessions will be canceled. Afternoon sessions will be held, however, there will be no midday transportation to afternoon sessions for students who normally ride a yellow bus. There will be transportation home at the end of the day.

Snow Routes

Be on the lookout for a mailer from the district that will contain your student’s snow route, bus stop location, and times. In the event of a two-hour late start, the bus stop location and times listed in the mailer are where your student can catch their bus.

These mailers have been translated into Amharic, Simplified Chinese, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese languages. If you do not receive your snow route information in the mail by December 23, 2022, please reach out to Transportation using Let’s Talk.

Snow routes differ from regular routes. They have been designed to make sure bus stops are on main roads that the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will prioritize to keep clear of snow and ice. The bus stop may be in a different location from your student’s regular bus stop. If your student receives curb-to-curb bus service, their bus stop may be relocated to a safer location as determined by the Transportation Department.

If your student uses an alternative service provider to get to school (EverDriven, HopSkipDrive, ZUM, etc.), and there is a two-hour late start, the service provider will attempt to pick up your student at their regular location. If the alternative service provider cannot safely reach your student’s pick-up location, you will be notified. Please use the alternative service provider’s app to keep track of your student’s ride.

King County Metro may also operate snow routes during a snow or ice event. Students that use King County Metro to get to school can view Metro’s snow route information.

Procedures for Snowfall During and Outside of School Hours

Options for Transportation Schedule Changes

Weather conditions may require the district to put buses on snow routes.

The district will make every effort to adhere to the established school calendar, bell schedules, and routes. However, there may be times when weather conditions make the usual roads unsafe or impassable.

As inclement weather and traffic will affect bus schedules and routes, we ask that families be patient and understanding. We will do everything in our control to provide accurate information regarding pick-up times for your students.

Hazardous Snow or Ice Conditions Occurring During School Hours

Ice and snow conditions occurring during the school day can cause significant transportation problems in returning students to their homes.

Procedure

If there is snowfall after school opens OR a major snowfall alert is issued by the weather service, the superintendent will decide by 11 a.m. either to release school early or to continue to operate school for a full day.

Depending on the evaluation of several factors, such as time of day, availability of drivers, road and weather conditions, a decision will be made whether to dismiss schools early, on schedule, or to hold students until conditions improve to ensure buses can proceed through traffic.

If there is a decision to dismiss schools early, high schools and middle schools will be dismissed first, followed by elementary schools.

The following procedures will be utilized to provide the best possible service under these conditions:

Notification

If inclement weather makes a schedule change necessary, the Seattle Public Schools Office of Public Affairs will notify families. The Public Affairs team alerts local TV and radio stations, places a notice on the district and school websites, and posts updates on district social media accounts. Families will receive a phone call, email, and text message, however, other communication channels may be faster to check.

Staff Responsibilities

Each building principal or program manager will be responsible for the following:

  • Boarding of Buses
    1. Ensure all students board their assigned buses. No alternate transportation will be provided.
    2. The principal or program manager(s) may not leave the building until after all the buses have completed their routes and the Transportation Office has been contacted.
  • Receiving Center for Other Schools
    1. Receive students from buses unable to complete routes due to weather and street conditions. Drivers are instructed that if it is impossible to continue a route, or if it is 7 p.m., they are to proceed to a designated receiving school and escort their students into the building.
    2. Central staff will be sent to assist at these sites. The receiving school will be responsible for contacting the sending school as well as the parents. View the list of Receiving Center School Sites below.
  • Students with Medical Concerns
    1. Drivers should be kept informed by school staff about students with known medical problems that may require short rides. School staff and bus drivers need to consult about transporting these students home on school buses during inclement weather conditions. If there is concern the bus will be delayed in traffic, the school should hold the students at school and arrange for emergency transportation via 911.
    2. Schools may have bused students with known medical problems (e.g., a diabetic requiring insulin shots) where delayed medical treatment may result in physical complications. To reduce the potential for this type of problem, schools are encouraged to maintain an emergency supply of medicine for students known to have a medical problem.

For all students who have severe, complicated or fragile medical conditions, emergency transportation plans shall be discussed and documented on the student’s Individualized Education Program or Individualized Health Plan in the fall.

Such discussion should include the parents, staff, building principal, and school nurse. Plans may include, as appropriate, retention at home, principal contacts with parents to pick-up students at the first indication of school closure or adverse weather conditions, emergency transportation, etc.

Receiving center school sites during ice & snow emergencies

Central

  • Washington
  • Catharine Blaine
  • Coe
  • TOPS

Northeast

  • Roosevelt
  • Jane Addams
  • Laurelhurst

Northwest

  • Ballard
  • Ingraham
  • Whitman
  • Broadview-Thomson
  • Bagley
  • BF Day

Southeast

  • Mercer
  • South Shore K-8
  • Beacon Hill
  • Dunlap
  • Emerson
  • Rising Star @ AAA

West Seattle

  • Concord
  • Gatewood
  • Lafayette
  • Boren K-8 STEM
  • Arbor Heights

Central

  • Washington
  • Catharine Blaine
  • Coe
  • TOPS

Northeast

  • Roosevelt
  • Jane Addams
  • Laurelhurst

Northwest

  • Ballard
  • Ingraham
  • Whitman
  • Broadview-Thomson
  • Bagley
  • BF Day

Southeast

  • Mercer
  • South Shore K-8
  • Beacon Hill
  • Dunlap
  • Emerson
  • Rising Star @ AAA

West Seattle

  • Concord
  • Gatewood
  • Lafayette
  • Boren K-8 STEM
  • Arbor Heights

Hazardous Snow or Ice Conditions Occurring During Non-school Hours Procedure

At approximately 2 a.m., designated school district staff drive predetermined routes designed to assess conditions approaching and around a selected set of schools across the district.

Drivers use a set of objective criteria to assess and record conditions used to assess safe driving and walking conditions around these schools.

At 3 a.m., drivers report their findings to district supervisors, who will make a recommendation to the superintendent of whether to maintain normal operations, call for a two-hour delayed start to school, or close schools.

The targeted time for decisions regarding school delays or closures is by 5 a.m.

Notification

If inclement weather makes a schedule change necessary, the Seattle Public Schools Office of Public Affairs will notify families. The Public Affairs team alerts local TV and radio stations, places a notice on the district and school websites, and district social media accounts. Families will receive a phone call, email, and text message, however, other communication channels may be faster to check.

Communications Channels

If weather conditions make a schedule change necessary, the district will communicate the decision through the following methods and in this order:

  1. TV and Radio Stations: Checking the local television or radio stations is an effective and efficient way to find out if there is a schedule change.
    • Local TV stations: KOMO 4, KING 5, KIRO 7, FOX 13
    • Radio: KNWN AM 1000, KIRO 97.3 FM
  2. Social Media: District Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
  3. District and School Websites: School schedule updates will be posted to the district and school websites.
  4. Phone calls, emails and text messages: Families will receive a phone call, email, and text message, however, other communication channels may be faster to check.

Family Preparation

It is highly recommended that every family have an emergency weather plan in place for timely activation. In the event school is delayed or canceled, please ensure your children have an alternate place to stay if you have commitments required outside the home.

Please ensure that a neighbor, family member, or center can care for or receive your students. Instruct your students to report directly home or to their established care center immediately on arrival in the evening.

Adverse Weather Transportation Plan Frequently Asked Questions

This information is available at the following website flashalert.net

Local television stations, including the following, broadcast this information:

The following radio stations broadcast this information:

AM Radio Stations

  • KCIS 630
  • KIXI 880
  • KNWN AM 1000
  • KGRG 1330
  • KRKO 1380

FM Radio Stations

  • KPLU 88.530
  • KGRG 89.9
  • KSER 90.7
  • KMPS 94.1
  • KUOW 94.9
  • KIRO 97.3
  • KCMS 105.3
  • KRWM 106.9

Please note that there may be up to a 30-minute delay for television and radio stations to broadcast this information once they receive it from the district. In addition, some television and radio stations may modify the message slightly before broadcasting it.

If snow falls during non-school hours, transportation staff monitor weather forecasts and survey road conditions throughout the night and during early morning hours. Weather and road conditions are assessed for safe bus travel and recommendations are made to the chief operations officer, who then consults with the Superintendent.

The superintendent makes a final decision on school operations for that day by 5 a.m. Any decision to delay or close schools is communicated via www.flashalert.net, television, radio, and district social media.

The decision is made this early to allow parents enough time to plan their day.

If snow occurs during the school day—or if a major snowfall alert is issued by the weather service during the school day, the District will evaluate the effect weather conditions have on safe transportation of students and may decide to:

  • Close schools early
  • Maintain normal operating hours
  • Delay bus departure time until traffic conditions improve

The Superintendent will decide by 11 a.m. either to release school early or continue to operate school for a full day.

No. An announcement will only be made when there is a change in normal operations.

Yes, snow routes for students receiving specialized transportation service are developed for use when the district operates on snow routes. 

Snow route service for students receiving specialized transportation could be different than service during normal operations.

Stop locations for students receiving specialized transportation service will be modified based on the guideline that all snow routes utilize streets and major arterials that have been identified by the City of Seattle to be cleared first in the event of a snowstorm. Use of these streets is to improve student safety.

Although the downtown area may be clear, there may be ice and snow in outlying areas, side streets, and hills. The district must consider the safety of all students when making a decision about whether or not to close schools.

The district mails letters to parents/guardians or families identifying these routes during the month of November. Parents can also call 206-252-0900 to identify their snow route.

The district, in collaboration with the City of Seattle, identifies centrally located streets and major arterials that will be cleared first in the event of a snowstorm. Snow routes use these streets and arterials to improve student safety.

Students snow route stop location and stop time assignment may differ from their assignment during normal operations. 

Yes. If inclement weather makes a schedule change necessary, the Office of Public Affairs notifies families, alerts the local TV and radio stations, places a notice on the district and school websites and district social media accounts.

Families will receive a phone call, email, and text message, however, other communication channels may be faster.

The district prioritizes direct phone calls, emails, and text messages to families who request a language other than English as their primary (home) language.

  • Students should be dressed properly for the weather as transportation delays will occur.
  • Students should be brightly dressed and easy to see.
  • Items should be placed in a backpack or school bag, thus making hands free to be used for stability.

Students should arrive at the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pickup up time.

  • Allow extra time in the morning to get to the bus stop on time.
  • Wear bright clothing so the bus driver and other motorists can see you in the early morning and late evening.
  • Dress properly for the weather. Winter clothing, hats, mittens and boots will keep you warm.
  • Pedestrian travel should be done on sidewalks or a safe walking path. When there is no sidewalk and you have to walk on the road, be sure to walk facing traffic.
  • Watch traffic while walking to your stop. Vehicles may lose control in the snow and ice and you need to be aware of your surroundings.
  • Ensure your balance by walking with hands out of pockets, free from unnecessary materials.
  • Young children should be walked to the bus stop; older children should walk in groups.
  • When crossing a street, look left, right and left. Walk across a street at corners, use crosswalks whenever possible. Do not run.
  • Be careful around cars parked along the street. Drivers coming down the street may not see you.
  • Listen for the sound of car motors, sirens, horns or emergency announcements before stepping into the street.

Note from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)

During a severe snowstorm, SDOT crews work 24 hours a day to clear crucial streets around the city for buses and emergency services. They can’t be everywhere at once, and it may take them up to 12 hours to clear all these streets after a break in the storm. 

Please be a good neighbor and help keep Seattle moving this winter! Stock up on snow removal supplies and keep the sidewalk, curb ramps, and storm drains near your home, business, or job site free of leaves, snow, and ice.   

Visit SDOT’s winter weather website for snow route maps and more tips on how to prepare.