Seattle Public Schools will be closed Wednesday, as continued snowfall and freezing temperatures Tuesday night are expected to create hazardous road conditions.
The school district started two hours late on Tuesday, even as nearly every other King County school district canceled classes altogether.
The district made the announcement around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday that classes and student activities would be canceled Wednesday, which was scheduled to be an early-release day.
Seattle faced a shortage of 20 bus drivers Tuesday, as weather conditions made it difficult for employees to get to work. The district reported that 39 bus routes — 33 for students with disabilities — to and from school would not run either in the morning or afternoon.
That’s about 6% of the total number of bus routes that the district would typically cover on a snow day.
“Many of our employees, including (bus) drivers, live in areas in and outside of Seattle where the conditions are different, so my understanding is many drivers can’t get into work,” said spokesman Tim Robinson.
Transportation on snow days was a problem last year, when many families — particularly those of students with disabilities — were left without buses.
The district had required families whose children received special-education services to opt into snow routes by filling out a form in fall. But many parents said they weren’t aware of that requirement. This year, the district said it would automatically assign a snow route to students it regularly buses to schools.
Parents received different notifications from early morning onward. At first, like Seattle, many school districts — including Auburn, Bellevue, Highline and Mercer Island — told them there would be two-hour delays Tuesday. But as the Puget Sound region braced for another blast of snow, all but Seattle and Vashon Island rushed to tell families that schools would simply close for the day.
At about 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Skykomish School District, which educates about 60 students, announced it would cancel Wednesday classes. The Riverview, Shoreline and Snoqualmie districts later announced that school would start two hours later on Wednesday.
Seattle closed Tuesday morning half-day preschool, including Head Start, while keeping afternoon sessions on schedule. Full-day preschool and Head Start remained open. But just before noon Tuesday — as the National Weather Service predicted more snow for the region — the district notified families that all athletic events and after-school activities would also be canceled for the day.
In an email earlier Tuesday, the district noted that its current contract with teachers set Jan. 29 as the first snow makeup day of the year — if it turns out to be necessary.
“This will be the first day used if we need to close schools due to ice and snow,” the email said.
On social media, some parents questioned why any school district needed to cancel classes, and recalled the frustration last year when makeup days crept into summer vacation. Other criticized the decision not to close.
“We won’t be risking our lives for school today,” mother Anne Tennell posted on Twitter.
Later Tuesday, she spent time playing in the snow with her family before shopping for groceries and other supplies. Tennell’s son, a 10th grader, attends the Interagency campus in Queen Anne.
“How do they expect me to get up those hills exactly? On skis?” she said in a phone interview.
“I have a nephew in Highline and even they closed. This is ridiculous,” Tennell added. “The teachers and the staff have to come from areas so much further than Seattle. It just seems irresponsible to put families at risk.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Asia Fields contributed to this report.