Portland Public Schools administrator on snowstorm: 'We should h - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland Public Schools administrator on snowstorm: 'We should have left early'

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Bus stuck in Wednesday's snowstorm. (Image: KPTV) Bus stuck in Wednesday's snowstorm. (Image: KPTV)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A Portland Public Schools spokesman apologized for the decision to keep students in class all day Wednesday as a snowstorm slammed Portland and caused gridlock throughout the metro area.

In hindsight, said Courtney Wilton, interim executive director of operations, "We should have left early."

"Had we released even an hour or two earlier, it would have been significantly better," he said Thursday morning.

Portland Public Schools administrators weren't alone in their decision to not send students home early Wednesday. Many districts made the same call and were left with dozens of students stranded in schools as buses were stuck in traffic or unable to navigate icy conditions.   

FOX 12 received numerous complaints from parents.

Wilton explained that a lot of thought and discussion goes into making the call about whether or not to cancel classes due to the weather.

"We underestimated the severity of the weather and we also underestimated the severity of the traffic," he said. "The traffic was horrendous."

Highways and major roadways throughout the Portland area were backed all day Wednesday and some into the early morning hours Thursday.  

A Gresham-Barlow School District spokeswoman released a statement about that district's decision for a full day of classes Wednesday.

"When we close school early we have to make the decision by noon. At that point, it was clear and there was no snow falling. There was also no guarantee that the weather would be bad when it was time to dismiss school. Thankfully we were able to get our students home safely last night," according to the statement.

The North Clackamas School District also released a statement saying hundreds of middle school students stranded at school were supervised by staff and 90 percent of them were home by 9 p.m. The last student left at 11 p.m. 

"I apologize for the stress and inconvenience caused for many of our families, students and staff in this difficult situation. While this particular situation may not have been completely avoided, we will review and evaluate our decision-making, communication, and transportation systems to learn how we can improve in the future," according to a letter sent home to parents from Superintendent Matthew Utterback. 

In forecasting the storm, FOX 12 chief meteorologist Mark Nelsen reported both Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning that schools should have kids on buses headed home by 1 p.m. at the latest Wednesday.

"Doing a full day of school would be risky," Nelsen said.

Portland Public Schools, among many other districts, announced Wednesday night that classes would be canceled for Thursday.

"I think we hopefully learn a lesson from this and the next time we think we're going to have snow in the afternoon, we take a hard look at it and if we think it's coming, we do an early release," Wilton said.

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