Snow days freeze Bellevue College

Snow storm pits Puget Sounds, BC suspended classes and events for two days

Students on campus after closure.
Students on campus after closure. Alyssa Brown / The Watchdog

On Feb. 6 and 7, Bellevue College had two snow days on which all classes were cancelled. On Feb. 8 the school opened again, however many students were not able to find parking. Parking lots 1, 3 and 5 were not open the morning of Feb. 8.  A RAVE alert was sent out to students alerting them that the college would be closed on Feb. 6 and that there would be no classes on Feb. 7. Another RAVE message was sent out on Feb. 8, alerting students that the college would be open that day. Crews worked all day on Tuesday and into the night to clear the parking lots for Wednesday morning. For their own safety, they were sent home to get some rest, then resumed their work at 5:00 a.m.

Snow on campus.
Alyssa Brown / The Watchdog

“Knowing that the parking garage would handle nearly half of the student parking demand, our intention was to continue clearing surface lots and opening them as they were completed and as more students and faculty arrived on campus for later classes. We were also expected the warmer temperatures to help melt the snow, but that didn’t happen soon enough to help meet our peak demand, roughly 11:00 a.m.,” said Ray White, vice president of Administrative Finance at Bellevue College.

“We have heard of several students who did turn around and go home after trying to find parking during the peak parking period. And, as always, many students for whom it was unsafe to come to school due to conditions in their areas missed class as well,” said Kayla Grayson, Bellevue College emergency operations officer.

A team composed of the president, vice president and personnel from Campus Operations, Public Safety, and Emergency Management made the decisions to close the college, and the decision to reopen the college Wednesday. The decisions were finalized by Ray White. The team decided to open the college based on increasingly warm weather forecasts, and college walkways and stairs being cleared of snow.

White sent an email to the Bellevue College staff and student body explaining the snow day situation, as well as the student parking situation. In the email, White thanked the Bellevue College groundskeepers and administrative services for their work to safely open campus. White went on to explain that several groundskeepers could not safely travel to the college because of the snow, which delayed the clearing of the snow. White explained that after consultation with Public Safety and Campus Operations personnel, at 5:34 a.m. Wednesday the RAVE message was sent out to students of the campus’ opening, along with a warning about the limited parking available.

At the conclusion of the email, White stated that Bellevue College staff would learn from the situation and asked for student feedback on the way the staff handled the snow. Bellevue College will factor in students’ comments about the snow days in the after-action review that Bellevue College forms after incidents such as weather related school closures. The after action review will also determine if the Wednesday opening was justified or if a two-hour opening delay would have been more appropriate.

“Our primary consideration at Bellevue College is always the safety of our students, staff and faculty. In this case, we believed that the majority of folks would not be able to get to the campus safely. And once here, our campus would not be safe to navigate on foot,” said White.

Bellevue College does not currently have a standard protocol for inclement weather. “Each incident is unique. Like emergencies, severe weather situations unfold in unpredictable ways. We will always do our best to interpret the situation and make the appropriate decision for the safety of our students. And in these times, member of our campus community do their best to adapt. We appreciate that.” added White.

Bellevue College has had issues with supplying students with enough parking in the past. The Bellevue College 30-year outlook plan includes additional future student parking structures. However, Bellevue College states that parking is sufficient for current enrollment levels. Bellevue College will not have any makeup days to account for the closures.