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Superintendent Message on Snow, Community

Reflection on Process, Calendar and Moving Forward

Article Date: Jan 20, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Families, students, staff and community members,

Thank you.

What a week it has been, filled with anticipation, anxiety and admiration. Anticipation of the arrival of students in our schools. Anxiety about getting the snow moved safely and quickly. And admiration for the hustle and stamina shown by our crews and contractors who moved millions of pounds of snow from our school sites.

I consider last Thursday’s gym collapse a frightening, close call. I have been replaying that first conversation with our maintenance director over and over in my mind for a full week now and I have wondered what we could have done to prevent Kenwood’s gym rooftop from collapsing.

I do a lot of reflecting in my everyday life – from pondering how to get every senior to graduate on time to wondering if we could have prevented staff from falls that happen on our properties. Big or small, I tend to spend a lot of my awake time trying to find the ‘why’ so that we can better ourselves for the future.

The first step of that reflection always starts with a good understanding of what we are already doing. I suspect you too, may be seeking this same understanding. The following is what our crews were doing to remove snow from our school sites as the storm continued to pummel us with snow:

  • Our crews began working to remove snow from our school grounds on December 5, as the first snowflakes began to fall. They worked through weekends and the winter break to continue to remove snow as it began to accumulate with intemperance. On January 2, our crews began working day and night – 20 hours a day – with just one day off.

  • Our maintenance crews were clearing roofs based on priority of leaks and other structural issues/concerns as the January storm was wearing on.
    • Specifically, during the storm – and before the Kenwood gym collapsed - our crews were on roofs clearing ice dams, removing snow, and clearing drains at Buckingham Elementary, R.E. Jewell, Kenwood’s (Highland) library, La Pine High School, Pilot Butte Middle School’s gym, Kingston School (Westside Village), Three Rivers School, Mountain View High School, Thompson School (Amity Creek), Sky View Middle School, Bend Senior High School, Marshall High School and Summit High School.

  • We specifically reached out to our roofing consultant on Monday, January 9 to monitor snow loads, who was in consultation with structural engineers. We have since added more than 12 structural engineers to our contractor team.
    • As a growing school district, we regularly take a look at our future maintenance and preservation needs every five years. Our last Sites and Facilities review occurred in 2015. At that time, a roofing consultant looked at all of our roofs, including the roof at Kenwood’s gym.

Our crews are very proactive during the lead up to, and during snow storms. They work hard to make sure schools are safe for students, staff and community members. They do amazing work and I am grateful for it.

You will still see our crews out and about as you drive by our schools. We have had a record amount of snowfall over the last month - 62 inches of snowfall so far in December and January in Bend alone, according to the National Weather Service. This is the most snowfall in December and January since 1901.

While we can’t prevent snow storms, seismic events, hail, lightening and other weather phenomena, we can continue to plan our proactive response. We are taking a really good look at all aspects of this situation and considering changes to our procedures and preparedness. Look to hear from us as these are developed.

Some have asked what all of this emergency snow removal will cost and where the money is coming from. Our early projections are that we have spent more than a million dollars to clear all of this snow, to date. Funding will initially come from our operating resources, including emergency reserves. We are also in contact with the county’s emergency managers with regard to the possibility of disaster relief funds to help offset the costs. Our intention is to pursue available financial assistance through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Disaster funding can be available for governmental agencies to recovery when the president approves a state disaster request. This process is lengthy and involves many steps.

The last few days, I have been in schools across our district and I am thrilled to see the work occurring to educate every student to reach their greatest potential. Students eyes are bright and teachers and staff are excited to be back with our more than 18,000 students.

Making sure that our students receive the instructional time they deserve this school year remains a priority. While a final decision has not been made, we are still committed to ending the school year on June 22 and not adding classes over spring break. We are looking at all other options, from extending the school day by a few minutes to going longer on Wednesdays to having classes on weekdays that we are currently scheduled to be off, to name a few.

We will make the final decision on any calendar adjustments in early February. I am meeting, face-to-face, with Oregon’s Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Salam Noor, next week. He, and the State Board of Education, are meeting on January 26 to craft temporary rules for instructional time that will give us the landscape to allow us to make our final decision.

We have an awesome team – when you get the chance, please go out of your way to thank them. This team is not only district staff, but includes a great network of our neighbors, including contractors who have specialized equipment (steamers, excavation crews, high ropes teams). We have no doubt that they will be by our side if we ever need them again in the future.

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart. Our communities are incredible.

Sincerely,

Shay Mikalson

Superintendent, Bend-La Pine Schools