The North Bend Eagle


Snow days come in bunches as students, teachers adjust

by Nathan Arneal
Published 1/24/23

Almost everybody enjoys a good snow day. It can be a chance to sleep in or get cozy on the couch while the outside world comes to a frozen, white stand-still.

But can there be too much of a good thing?

During the first two full weeks of the spring semester at North Bend Central – from Jan. 8 to 19 – school was canceled five times out of the 10 weekdays. Two of the days school was held were 10:30 a.m. late starts. Another had evening activities canceled because of more snow.

Principal Brenda Petersen, an administrator at NBC since 2008, said this has been the snowiest stretch she has seen.

“Since I’ve been here, I don’t ever remember it being this bad this close together,” Petersen said.

Superintendent Patrick Ningen said he hadn’t seen this much snow since... last year at his previous school, Creek Valley in Chappell in the Nebraska panhandle.

“We had like 70 inches of snow that winter,” Ningen said. “It was crazy. I had not seen that in my career.”

Meanwhile, here in North Bend, NBC had just one snow day last school year. And Petersen said that was just as much due to the number of people out with illness as it was the weather during a very dry winter locally.

With so many missed days early in 2024, Petersen said, it takes a while to get everyone back in school shape. She pointed out that this week should be the school’s third week after Christmas break, but it has had only seven or eight days in session.

“It’s like coming off of Christmas break all over again,” Petersen said. “Cross our fingers, this will be a full week of school, and we know by the end of the week our kids are going to be tired because they haven’t had a full week of school since December.”

When it comes to calling a snow day, Ningen starts by gathering as much information as he can on the weather. Particularly useful is the National Weather Service report issued about 4 p.m. each day. There are also webinars where the NWS gets into more detail about the timing and moisture content of the precipitation. The wind is also a very important factor as it can blow a small amount of snow into impassible drifts.

Besides going out and testing roads himself, Ningen also has a network of people who live throughout the district he checks with to monitor road conditions. He is also in three different group texts with area superintendents: one with Fremont and some bigger schools to the east, another with conference schools, which are mostly to the north, and another with nearby schools to the west and south.

“There are lots of variables and things to keep an eye on,” Ningen said.

He also noted that weather forecasts have improved over the years. This allows more snow days to be called a day ahead of time instead of having people find out at 6 a.m. the morning of, which was the common method a generation ago. Ningen said if possible, he prefers making the call a day ahead of time to give families a chance to plan contingencies.

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