Chilliwack students enjoyed rare snow day

Snow days aren't common in Chilliwack, but heavy snow and treacherous sidewalk conditions helped school district make early call

Rylan Janssen

Rylan Janssen

To most kids, there’s nothing better than a snow day announcement.

And on Sunday night, after steady and heavy snowfall, the Chilliwack School District delivered. They made the decision at about 8 p.m. Sunday, posting the news on their website and fanning out the information through school email lists.

The decision to close schools was based on students’ abilities to traverse sidewalks and streets that haven’t been cleared properly. A note from Superintendent Evelyn Novak to staff expressed concern for student safety.

“The amount of snow that has been accumulating and that has been forecasted to accumulate will not allow our staff the time to ensure our schools are safely accessible for students,” she wrote. “In particular, the sidewalks in some areas of Chilliwack are impassable for our students who walk to school and would require students to walk on roads to get to school making it unsafe, and will become even more so over the evening and tomorrow morning given the anticipated snowfall,” the note said.

She added that the maintenance crew had been “working tirelessly” through the weekend to clear parking lots, sideways and pathways at the district’s 28 school locations.

While students were allowed to stay home, teachers were asked to make efforts to get to school. However, any teacher not able to do so safely was also allowed to stay home.

Schools were back open on Tuesday, despite many of the same city sidewalks not being cleared for foot travel. It is required by law for homeowners and business owners to clear the sidewalks facing their property by noon the day after a significant snowfall. People have been forced to walk in the roadways, which are narrower than usual due to snow piles.

Side roads leading to schools downtown were still a mess on Tuesday, including Lewis Ave. and Strathcona Road on Fairfield Island. Some parents were concerned that snow was being piled on the wheelchair parking spots at Chilliwack middle school.

Snow days are rare in Chilliwack. The last one was in March 2014, when a series of storms made road conditions treacherous. Before that, a January 2012 storm closed schools for a number of days.

Private schools also called Monday a snow day. They had closed on Friday as well, as the storm was starting. Many teachers and students travel long distances to private school campuses, as they don’t operate on catchment areas.

UFV Chilliwack and Abbotsford kept their doors open for students and exams throughout the storm, however they closed their Hope campus on Monday.

Many other programs closed their doors for the day on Monday, or shortened hours to allow staff to get to and from work safely, including Chilliwack Community Services. And on Sunday, several churches canceled services.

Some families took advantages of the heavy snowfall to spend time together. Many of them built snow forts and igloos, and sent photos in to The Progress to share.

Michelle Stone sent photos of a complex igloo built by her son Jonah. It’s complete with lighting, decorations, and even an entrance tunnel.

Those who built igloos are likely to enjoy them for a while. With temperatures not expected to rise above 0 degrees for the next week, the snow will be sticking around for some time.

Related Slideshow: PHOTOS of Snowfall in Chilliwack