MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. – Tahoma School District issued an apology on Friday after a spokesman said they “made a mistake,” by not delaying or canceling school after road conditions worsened.
“It was an immediate regret,” said Jennifer Gates, a Maple Valley mom who drove her two young children to school on Friday morning, barely. “I shouldn’t have taken them to school. I should have left them home today.”
Tahoma School District issued this statement:
Dear Tahoma Family:
This morning’s decision to not have our schools on a two-hour delay or to close school was a mistake. The responsibility for the safety of our students is paramount and the ultimate responsibility lies with me. I want to apologize to all Tahoma families for the situation you were placed in this morning. We will certainly review our transportation/operations/decision-making procedures to ensure we don’t have this issue again.
All Friday student absences will be excused.
“Parents are understandably upset,” said Kevin Patterson, the Tahoma School District director of communications. “They felt that the conditions were dangerous and we should have had a 2-hour delay this morning and they are right, we should have called a 2-hour delay.”
It’s the risk every school district in Western Washington had to make on Friday morning. School administrators drove between 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. to gauge conditions.
“We got it right today,” said Randy Matheson with Renton School District.
Renton Public Schools have a late start every Friday naturally. That 90-minute delay, said Matheson, made all the difference. “It’s not just whether or not a bus can make it through a street, it’s whether or not families can,” he said.
Northshore Public Schools canceled classes on Friday altogether; Lake Stevens and Mukilteo, too.
“Superintendents that make these calls consider safety of kids, safety of parents driving their kids to school, whether or not a kid will be waiting on the side of the road for the bus, and there’s just a lot to consider, it’s not as easy as whether or not there is snow on the ground,” said Matheson.
Patterson said the Tahoma School District got it wrong. At 5:30 a.m., when weather started to get worse, they moved to a limited bus schedule. It’s the first measure, before issuing a delay.
“After that, conditions changed again,” said Patterson. “By that time we already had buses on the road and were committed to high school and middle school pickup routes.” Conditions, he said, only went downhill from there.
“We heard about multiple accidents from my mother-in-law,” said Gates.
She said she heard of high school students involved in fender-benders. “I barely know how to drive in this, let alone 16-year-old-kids in cars trying to get someplace.”
Tahoma School District said they are working to make sure it doesn’t happen again. “It will be a lesson learned and we will do much better in the future,” said Patterson.