NKSD prepares for bad weather conditions

POULSBO — With winter weather conditions rapidly approaching, North Kitsap School District maintenance director Dave Dumpert said his crews are bracing for adverse conditions that will likely hit the North End in the coming months.

During the 2006-07 school year, six school days were cancelled in the NKSD due to inclement weather conditions, Dumpert said.

“We receive weather reports from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that are pretty detailed. It gives the time, temperatures and the amount of precipitation that we should expect in specific areas,” he said. “We check the weather daily a little before 6 a.m and after 2 p.m. The long-range weather forecast shows the area to have normal temperatures this winter. January is supposed to be the month with the most precipitation this school year.”

Dumpert said daily operations significantly shift into high gear if there’s an inkling of windy, icy or snowy conditions.

“If we know something out of the ordinary is heading our way weather-wise, we have an executive council (meetings) where we discuss and plan what we’re going to do,” he said.

During the windstorm that struck Western Washington in December 2006, the NKSD decided to take preventive action before it blew into the area.

“Last year, we cancelled school before the windstorm even hit,” he said. “We knew it was going to be bad so why wait until the next day to make a decision?”

Unlike the Central Kitsap School District that saw power outages in droves occur when a mini-windstorm with winds reaching 45 mph hit Western Washington Oct. 18, the NKSD fared relatively well.

“We lost power in about three schools for four or five hours after school had already ended,” Dumpert said. “The next day (Oct. 19) Gordon Elementary had some of its lights out, but we were able to get them back on quickly.”

On days when an unexpected weather system can bring snow, NKSD Transportation Director Ron Lee hits the streets of North Kitsap at 3:30 a.m. scoping out the roadways.

By 4:30 a.m., Dumpert clocks into work to check out the conditions.

“I have to call my boss to let them know what our recommendations will be for that school day,” he said. “Our deadline to report to the superintendent is 5 a.m. The superintendent has the final call on whether school will be cancelled, delayed or run on time.”

If the roads prove to be hazardous, Dumpert said the maintenance department has a wide assortment of tools at its disposal to combat the dicey conditions.

“We load everything we need into our emergency preparedness vans and make sure we have everything we need ready to go,” he said. “We load the snow plows onto our trucks the day before so we’re ready to go the next day.”

In addition, the NKSD purchased more than 7,000 pounds of ice melt this summer that will be used to in parking lots and roads at schools throughout the district as needed this winter. The maintenance department has eight generators, three sandboxes, and five snow plows to boot.

“After we plow the snow we lay down sand to keep the parking lots safe,” he said. “We hook up the snow plows to our one ton trucks to bring them where they need to go.”

Dumpert said ensuring the safety of children traveling to and from school is the most important aspect of his job.

“The whole job is about the kids. We’re here to do what we can to make sure they are safe,” he said. “We want them to get to school safely and get home safely.”

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