Snow closes schools in mountain towns

Snow closes schools in mountain towns »Play Video
Snow on Monday forced the closure of all mountain school districts in Kern County for the first time in 10 years.

El Tejon, Kern Valley, Kernville, South Fork and Tehachapi had classes canceled.

In the Tehachapi district, school officials started watching the weather at 2:00 a.m. Monday. Superintendent Dr. Richard Swanson says a couple hours later, things looked worse.

"By 4:00 it was coming down in large flakes and the temperature had dropped down to freezing, and we had a snow storm," said Swanson.

The superintendent said that starts a step-by-step process to notify everyone. It starts with calling the transportation manager.

"I phone her, tell her what the decision is. She then calls in and phones my principals that in turn, phone their teachers. The teachers phone their students, and all the district gets notified," said Swanson.

Students say they found out about the school closure Monday by seeing TV news or checking the school website. "I love it, I love being able to snowboard with my friends," said 8th grader Conner Blackburn.

He was with a group of friends sliding down hills near the high school football field. The group admitted the snow made some problems for their families.

"My dad left later for work today," said Andrew Hack. "He waited till the roads got better."

Near Frazier Park, the El Tejon School District called for a school closure. That district says "snow days" are decided on a day-by-day basis. They also have staffers who start checking as early as 3:00 a.m.

If snow gets to the valley floor, there are also procedures for school closures. From the Superintendent of Schools office, spokesman Jim Varley says each district decides if they will close for snow.

Every district looks at road conditions, and decides if it's safe for students, teachers and staff to come to the schools, says Varley.

The winter weather system blew in Saturday and should stick around through Wednesday, possibly dumping as much as 20 inches of snow in mountain communities at 2,500 feet, according to Eyewitness News weather anchor Aaron Perlman.

People in the San Joaquin Valley could see a light dusting of snow by Tuesday night, Perlman said, noting that Bakersfield hasn't experienced snow in 10 years.

A more serious danger in the Central Valley, however, could be frost and freezing conditions. Temperatures might dip into the 20s, prompting the need to cover plants and pipes and take precautions with outside pets.

But, schools in the mountain communities are likely to face more decisions about calling for "snow days." In Tehachapi, superintendent Dr. Swanson it's a decision based on safety.

"Two things go into it," said Swanson. "The safety of the kids is absolutely number one, and the buses. And then the next thing is are we going to -- even if the whole district is not snowed in -- are we going to have so many students snowed in that it'll impact our attendance substantially.