Weather raining on return for North Beach schools

Mother nature decided to extend winter break for students of the North Beach School District this past week.

In the nine-day period from Jan 4. to Jan. 12, school was canceled twice and dismissed early another two times. The decision to alter schedules was due to excessive flooding throughout Grays Harbor County that threatened the commutes of North Beach staff and families.

“Last week there was massive flooding in Ocean Shores and on State Route 109 between Hogan’s Corner and Pacific Beach,” said North Beach School District Superintendent Andrew Kelly. “It’s all been complicated by bad luck: lots of rain, water saturated ground, lots of standing water and king tides last week, high tides this week that coincide with when we need to run buses to get kids to/from school.”

Cancellations began on Jan 4., the return date for the nearly 800 students of the district, with an early 11 a.m. dismissal for North Beach Middle and High School, and a noon dismissal for Pacific Beach Elementary. Ocean Shores Elementary remained on a normal schedule with an exception for kids who lived north.

Students were also dismissed early on Jan. 6 following heavy rainfall and river flooding. The early afternoon dismissals allowed parents to pick up their children during low tide and avoid the abnormally high king tides that swelled rivers in the region last week. More than 9 inches of rain fell in Ocean Shores between 2 p.m. Jan. 5 and 2 p.m. Jan. 7, with more than 7 inches of rain on Jan. 6 in particular.

While the Aberdeen School District will be operating remotely until Jan. 25, the North Beach School District continues to offer in-person instruction. Aberdeen School District Superintendent Alicia Henderson made the decision on Jan. 10 to go to remote learning after a high rate of student and staff absences following a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

Superintendent Kelly continues to monitor COVID-related absences in the district, but is hesitant to give up the benefits of in-person instruction.

“We evaluate any time we have to vary the schedule, the impact versus safety. Safety is always the pre-imminent concern. We have the flexibility to move to distance learning, I just don’t believe that’s in the best interest for our kids,” said Kelly.

Increased COVID-19 cases in the county and staff availability were among his decision matrix last week. He is hopeful that delays and closures are finished for the year, and that the students of the North Beach School District will be able to enjoy a more normal school year.

“Even though we have worked diligently at distanced learning, we know it’s not as effective as in-person learning,” he said. “We’ve had more disruption this year than any of my four in North Beach as superintendent.”