Snow plow in Milton-Freewater

A snowplow working the streets of Milton-Freewater.

Doug Johnson was buying bakery treats this morning.

The superintendent of Dayton School District said his maintenance crew of two deserves at least that much for working around the clock as snow has continued to smother sidewalks, streets and parking lots in the Walla Walla Valley.

“They’re getting tired. We’ve gone through bags and bags of Ice Melt,” he said.

“We have a lot of feet of sidewalks where the high school kids go back and forth between buildings.”

Columbia County and the city of Dayton do great work in clearing roads, Johnson said, but some students get transported to rural homes  set far back from the road.

“Some of those driveways can be a quarter-mile long and those are tough. Some of our buses have gotten stuck.”

Athena-Weston School District has had several two-hour delayed starts this month, sometimes when other districts have been able to open on time. Drifting snow on country roads and ice on Highway 11, the main feeder road into Athena and Weston, have caused Superintendent Laure Quaresma to exercise caution.

Those late starts, however, have had an unintended benefit, she said today.

“For some of our kids, it is giving them extra sleep time, so it’s had a nice calming effect. They are more relaxed and ready to dig in,” Quaresma explained.

“I don’t think that sleeping in has hurt our kids at all, especially those high schoolers.”

A two-hour delay in starting school is not as bad as it seems. In a typical day, children eat breakfast and have a morning recess. When  those things are eliminated, the loss of time is more like one hour, she added.

Cold temperatures can also mean indoor recess, but if an Athena Elementary School student has proper outdoor apparel, Quaresma allows sledding and playing in the snow. For kids who stay inside, her staff offers Lego, games and other activities, so that recess does not devolve into a frenzy inside the gym.

The best tool for sanity during these cold temperatures is daily P.E. classes, Quaresma added.

“They get this physical outlet that I think is so darn necessary. Not every school can offer that every day, and in schools that don’t have it, I would predict you would have more aggressive behavior.”

In Dixie, a small elementary school population creates unity during indoor recesses, when students are encouraged to play basketball, dodgeball and other large motor skill games, school secretary Debbie Miller said today.

“We get them running as much as we can.”

Still, she noted, “Our kids are getting claustrophobic. They want to be outside.”

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.

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