What happens to school when it snows?
School bus picking up students on a snowy road

With more frequent forecasts for possible snow on the horizon, now makes it an opportune time to review how snow can affect school.

When it snows or other bad weather could affect the safe operation of schools, Tacoma Public Schools follows a longstanding practice to make a decision and communicate that decision to all the people who need to hear about it.

The decision to close schools is made by Superintendent Josh Garcia as early as possible, usually no later than around 5:30 a.m. A team of people from multiple TPS departments tracks weather and road conditions overnight, communicate with partner agencies, such as the City of Tacoma’s Street Maintenance Department and Tacoma Public Utilities. Weather impacts can vary across the region and even within the boundaries of the school district, which includes Tacoma, Fircrest, and Browns Point.

Team members collaborate on a recommendation that Chief Operating Officer Chris Williams makes to the superintendent.

The district will announce the decision to close schools in a variety of ways to help parents get the information quickly and accurately. These include:

  • A pop-up banner on the top of the district’s website home page (tacomaschools.org)
  • A post on the district’s Facebook page (facebook.com/tacomaschools)
  • A tweet to the district’s Twitter followers (twitter.com/tacomaschools)
  • Recorded phone message sent to all staff and family households in the district
  • An update posted on www.flashalert.net, accessible to the public and monitored by regional media
  • A recorded message left on the district information line at 253-571-1000 by 6 a.m.

An important note to families

Please contact the main office at your child’s school to ensure the school has your most current contact information so you will receive the district’s recorded messages and emails.

A key goal of our inclement weather decisions and notifications is to keep you, our students, and staff safe during these weather events.

What about an option to shift to remote learning when it snows?

Tacoma Public Schools will not shift to remote learning this school year if snow or bad weather requires the closure of schools.

Earlier this fall, TPS used our new community engagement platform, ThoughtExchange, to gather thoughts from parents, students, staff, partners, and others on the question:

“Should students participate in remote learning during inclement weather events?”

With many months of experience during the pandemic of online engagement and instruction, posing this question allowed a wide range of stakeholders to share their thoughts about whether that experience could allow learning to continue remotely on snow days.

More than 4,240 stakeholders shared 5,165 original thoughts. Those who participated also provided 60,150 ratings of the thoughts shared.

Thousands of participants shared thoughts saying a shift to remote learning could work—for an extended snow and ice event that closes schools and to maintain a more predictable school year calendar that avoids extending school into the summer.

Thousands of other participants shared thoughts saying a shift to remote learning had drawbacks, including reducing childhood snow play experiences, access to computers could be limited for those who don’t bring home their laptops, and some students no longer have the parental or day care support at home to ensure their children can get online.

When will we have snow make-up days?

Tacoma Public Schools builds snow make-up days into its annual school year calendar. If we lose a school day to snow, we can make up the lost day on one of the pre-planned make-up days. If we do not need to make up school, then the pre-planned make-up days become no-school days.

For the 2021-2022 school year, TPS has two potential snow make-up days built into the calendar:

  • Friday, February 18 ahead of the President’s Day weekend
  • Friday, May 27 ahead of the Memorial Day weekend

Should TPS need to make up more than two school days, we have two additional potential snow make-up days added to the end of the school year – June 23 and June 24.

Where else can you find snow updates?

While you will find inclement weather updates most quickly through those methods listed above, you also may see or hear the announcements on most television and radio news stations including:

  • KIRO (97.3 FM)
  • KOMO Radio (1000 AM)
  • KIRO TV (Ch. 7)
  • KING-TV (Ch. 5)
  • KOMO TV (Ch. 4)
  • KCPQ TV (Ch.13)

If you do not hear "Tacoma School District No. 10" listed in the media reports of closures, our schools are operating on a normal schedule. Sometimes media will confuse the Tacoma School District with the Tahoma School District, and both names sound similar to each other.

What potential options can the superintendent choose?

If you hear an announcement that our "schools will operate two hours late, normal bus routes," it means:

  • All AM preschools are canceled.
  • All PM preschools will continue on their normal schedules.
  • All-day preschool will operate two hours late.
  • All-day ECEAP will operate two hours late.
  • Elementary band, orchestra are canceled.
  • No out-of-district transportation.

If you hear an announcement that "schools will operate two hours late, emergency bus routes," it means:

  • All AM preschools are canceled.
  • All PM preschools will continue on their normal schedules.
  • Full-day preschool will operate two hours late.
  • Elementary band, orchestra are canceled.
  • No out-of-district transportation.
  • Emergency bus routes AM, normal bus routes PM.
  • Special education students in full-day classes may receive bus service at main street corners and must be met at the stops after school instead of home stops.

If you hear an announcement that "school is closed," it means:

  • School is closed.
  • All activities are canceled.
  • No out-of-district transportation.
  • Twelve-month employees generally report to work.

If you hear an announcement that "school is closed, district offices closed," it means:

  • School is closed.
  • All activities are canceled.
  • No out-of-district transportation.
  • All district offices are closed.
  • School District employees do not report to work.

For additional details on bus transportation during inclement weather, see "Emergency bus route information" in the Transportation section of our Parent and Student Handbook.

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Contact Us

Our Communications Department serves as a liaison to the community and provides various services to promote effective communication and partnerships. Contact us by email at info@tacoma.k12.wa.us or by phone at 253-571-1015.

Media Requests

Tanisha Jumper
Chief Communications Officer

Kathryn McCarthy
Assistant Director of Communications