Feb. 15, 2019
In this issue:
Snowstorm pummels Tahoma; hours will have to be made up
Cheerleaders capture eighth place in nation
News briefs
District kudos
Coming up in Bear Country

Snowstorm pummels Tahoma School District
Hours will have to be made up to meet state requirement
Director of Operations Tom Misfeldt uses a loader the district rented to scoop and relocate snow in the parking lot at the Transportation Department earlier today. The loader will also be used at other sites throughout the district to remove piles of snow and ice left behind after this week's storm.
The recent snowstorms deluged the district with accumulations that varied from several inches to 36 inches, causing seven canceled school days and two late-start school days. Lesson plans have gone untaught, parents have had to make alternate childcare plans and miss work due to the cancellations, and the district’s next task will be to come up with a plan to meet state requirements. Even with Gov. Jay Inslee’s declaration of a state of emergency, Tahoma still has to provide the minimum number of instructional hours, which is 1,027. This will likely require a combination of strategies, such as adding days to the end of the school year, moving to full-day Fridays for some of the remaining school year and potentially adding a small number of minutes to the school day. The School Board will consider these options and administrators will work with the district’s bargaining units to find a solution.

The current count of eight missed school days (including the missed day on Jan. 7 due to the windstorm and resulting power outage) is the highest number for Tahoma in many years. District records show that in 2006-07 there were six missed school days; in 2003-04 and again in 2008-09 there were five missed school days each. Any additional missed days in March or the remainder of the year will have to be tacked on to the calendar in June because we will not be able to waive them.

Officials decided to keep the schools closed on Friday because there were significant safety issues still affecting staff and student travel routes. Midwinter break will continue as planned next week, and school resumes on Monday, Feb. 25. The district has hired a contractor to assist staff in plowing and clearing parking lots. Tahoma is also bringing in heavy equipment to help move piles of snow out of parking areas.

“We are working diligently to get our schools back open as soon as possible,” Superintendent Tony Giurado said Thursday. “Student and staff safety, however, is the number one factor guiding our decision making.”

“I would like to acknowledge our Tahoma School District staff for working tirelessly the past week in a herculean effort to get our schools and other district facilities cleared of snow, ice, and tree debris,” Giurado continued. “I would also like to thank the community for its support, patience, and flexibility while we work to get our schools open again after this historic snowstorm.”

How does the district make weather decisions?
In the past two weeks and in general, staff and administrators begin discussing plans for checking on all school sites and roads in the district as soon as forecasts indicate major weather events. Sometimes, forecasts are wrong, and administrators and staff breathe a sigh of relief and go on with the business of the district.

When forecasts prove to be correct, several staff members begin driving the roads of the district and checking on buildings and facilities between 3:30 and 5 a.m., depending on conditions. Those staff members update other administrators, and begin discussing what the safest decision would be and what the implications are for programs such as Extended Enrichment and other activities scheduled for that day. Other factors considered are whether the necessary staff members can make it safely to work. For example, this week, many bus drivers, food service workers, a few maintenance staff and many certified staff shared that they would not be able to safely travel to work. While some staff live within the boundaries of the Tahoma School District, many others live in surrounding communities. 

On a normal day, buses begin rolling for the earliest routes at 6 a.m., and the EEP programs open at each elementary site at 6 a.m. This means that ideally, the district has to either call for a two-hour delay the evening before or as early as possible the next morning, if the weather changes. Officials try to make notifications via text, phone and email for staff and parents between 5 and 6 -- it’s hard to hit a sweet spot, because any earlier is too early for some families, and any later is too late for those who are already en route. Our area frequently experiences a sudden dip in temperatures between 6 and 8 a.m., which complicates matters.

The district stretches from the intersection of Maple Valley Highway and 154th Place Southeast at the northwest corner and as far northeast as portions of Rattlesnake Mountain and to Taylor Mountain. To the southeast, it extends out beyond the Kanaskat Palmer area and Sugarloaf Mountain; and the southwest corner of the district includes parts of Lake Sawyer. A map can be viewed here. Trouble areas include but are not limited to: Arcadia, Hobart, Maple Valley Heights, Berry Patch, parts of Daybreak, Wilson Hill, Ravensdale and Lake Retreat. The worst-affected areas vary by storm and type of weather. 

After assessing all the factors during the early morning hours, Assistant Superintendent Lori Cloud and Director of Operations Tom Misfeldt make a recommendation to Superintendent Tony Giurado, who makes the final decision. The School Board is kept in the loop as well. Once a decision is reached, the Communications team notifies FlashAlert, which informs news media, and posts to the website, Facebook and Twitter while also sending phone, email and text alerts to parents and staff members. 

Weather FAQs
Q: I can make it to work, and the main roads seem fine. Why can’t buses make it to pick up students, at least on snow routes?
A: Conditions vary drastically from one part of the district to another. While main roads have been well cleared, sanded and maintained, rural areas received up to 36 inches of snow and have not been plowed.

Q: I’ve heard that because the governor declared a state of emergency that the district can simply waive the days that were missed so that we don’t have to extend the school year further in June. Is that true?
A: No. It’s not as simple as that. While the state of emergency allows Tahoma to apply for a waiver if the School Board decides to do that, the district is still required to meet the minimum number of hours, which is 1,027. Administrators will present potential options to the School Board, and will also work with district bargaining units to find a solution.

Q: I am not receiving notifications by phone, text or email. (Or, the alternate: I’m receiving too many notifications, or I would like to change the phone numbers in my child’s account). How do I fix that?
A: Please call or email the registrar at your child’s school to adjust the contact information in Skyward. Our notification system, SchoolMessenger, pulls information directly from Skyward every morning at 4 a.m., so it will update automatically. If you would like to opt in (or out) for text message notifications, please click here and follow the instructions.

Q: I can’t find my child’s limited transportation (snow) bus route. Where should I look?
A: Click here for the lists. If you have questions, please call Transportation at 425-413-3220.

Q: I want to know whether we will have school, preferably now rather than in the morning or later today. How can I find out?
A: We don’t make any preemptive, early announcements. The absolute quickest way to find out is to sign up for FlashAlert, which you can do here. Other methods of notification are discussed on this page.
Some areas of the district received as much as 36 inches of snow. The area around Tahoma Elementary, pictured, here, was hit particularly hard during the storm.
Many areas where students typically wait for the bus, such as the entrance to Sugarloaf Estates in Ravensdale pictured here, were filled with snow and would have been unsafe for children.
Tahoma cheerleaders take 8th place in nation
Courtesy photos
The Tahoma Cheerleading team traveled to Florida, where they placed eighth in the nation (above) after taking first in the Washington State competition (below). Congratulations, Bears!

Tahoma Teacher Job Fair postponed
The Tahoma Teacher Job Fair that had been scheduled for Feb. 13 was postponed due to snow. We will be working to reschedule it and will announce a new date as soon as possible. 

Families invited to birth-21 Transition Night
Children with special needs and their families are invited to a special event for ages birth-21 with information about planning for life after high school, financial literacy, challenges that families face and more. The event will be from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 in the SAIL classrooms (G104) and surrounding hallway at Tahoma High School. (Please note, this is the same time and day as the “High School and Beyond Night,” so some families may want to attend both events. See related brief below).

Representatives from state agencies such as ARC, DDA, DVR, Open Doors; information about financial and estate issues for families of children with special needs; district personnel for each grade group regarding Transitions; and more. 

To RSVP or for any questions, contact Tahoma Schools Transition Specialist Rawna Hamann at 425-413-3253 or rhamann@tahomasd.us.

Families of MS & THS students: High School & Beyond Night
Middle and high school families are invited to attend our annual "High School & Beyond Night" event from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, at Tahoma High School.

The event will include a principal’s welcome, career and college fair, and a variety of 30-minute seminars.

To read about the topics of the seminars and for more information about the fair, click here:

Future Freshman Night is March 13
Current eighth-graders and their parents and guardians are invited to Future Freshman Night from 6:30-8:15 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13 at Tahoma High School. The event will include a principal’s welcome, tips for being successful in high school, information about the registration process and the class of 2023 graduation requirements, a course fair and building tours. 

The evening will begin in the gym at the west end of the building, so enter off of 216th/Bear Boulevard.

Tahoma scholarship application window now open
The Tahoma Community Partner Scholarship application is now live. All applications are due by 4 p.m. on Friday, March 29. The application program is set on an automatic timer and is exact for Pacific Standard Time. Absolutely no late applications will be processed. To access the application, click here: http://scholarships.tahomahigh.com
The application process will show which sections have been completed and what still needs to be done. Organizers with the THS PTA offer the following advice: Letters of recommendation frequently don’t reach the intended recipient in this process due to spam filters, so look to make sure that you receive a check mark next to that requirement before the due date.

The PTA’s suggested timeline for applicants is: Feb. 8, finish all basic application information; Feb. 15, complete all essays required and send out recommendation requests; March 1, follow up on recommendation requests; March 8, verify requests were returned or continue to follow up on requests; March 15, recheck all progress and finalize any incomplete items; March 22, make sure everything is complete and submit applications.
Any questions may be directed to Stacy Pleskoff via email at thsptascholarships@gmail.com, with “Scholarship Question” in the subject line.

Tickets on sale now for father-daughter ball
The Tahoma High School PTA is now selling tickets to the annual father-daughter ball, which will be from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 at Tahoma High School. The theme is “Love you to the moon and back,” and the event includes dancing, a photograph, keepsake and light snacks.

For those who pre-register, tickets are $40 for one parent/guardian with one daughter, and $15 for each additional daughter. The cost at the door will be $50 for one parent/guardian with one daughter, and $15 for each additional daughter.

To pre-register, visit https://thsptafdb.brownpapertickets.com or mail checks to THS PTA, P.O. Box 74, Maple Valley, WA, 98038. Proceeds from the ball benefit the THS PTA Scholarship Fund.

Community invited to Empty Bowls Fundraiser March 1
The Maple Valley Food Bank and Emergency Services will host its second Empty Bowls fundraiser from 5-8 p.m. on March 1 at the Cedar Lodge, next door to the food bank.

Modeled after the nationwide movement of the same name, this fundraiser features tables full of empty bowls, meant to remind those who attend of those in our community who regularly go without enough to eat. 

For $20 per adult (kids eat free), those who attend will get to pick a beautiful handmade bowl to take home, and will also get a dinner of hot soup provided by local restaurants. Students from Tahoma schools and many community members have created bowls of all patterns and designs to donate for the event.

Raffle tickets and wine can be purchased at an additional cost. Tickets for the event may be purchased at the door with cash or credit, or on the food bank website under the “shop” tab. 
District kudos
Swim & dive team heads to state
Members of the Tahoma boys swim and dive team are competing in the state championship at the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way this weekend. For updates, click here.

"The boys came together in tough meets and really stepped up and swam fast," Coach Theresa Castaneda said. "I am very impressed at how much the boys step up in tough meets and races. They rally for each other and have swam faster than I expected them to this year. They really amaze me at what they are able to do together. ... We have a really young team and the goal was to just build skills so we could get faster as a team in the next couple of years. We focused on team building and making sure the guys learned how to support each other."

At districts, Castaneda said, the boys rallied during an amazing meet. The 400 Free Relay team broke the school record. Of the 10 individual swims, three relays, & one diver, the team made top 7 in three individual swims, two relays, & 1 diver. Those nine athletes are compete at state. Nate Ainsworth will swim the 50 Free & 100 Fly individually at state, Colton Natwick will swim the 200 IM, and Zach Klobutcher will dive. The relay swimmers and alternates are Nate Ainsworth, Mike Shinas, Devin Stanley, Coltin Natwick, Tyler Cruise, Lars Hammerstrom, Leon Hong, & Shane Conley. 

The North Puget Sound League recently announced its All-League Selections, which included: Cascade Division 1st team members Nate Ainsworth and Colton Natwick; Cascade Division 2nd team diver Zach Klobutcher and swimmer Devin Stanley.

THS wrestlers compete at state
The Tahoma High School Bears wrestling team is competing at the state competition this weekend. For updates, click here.

The Cascade Division of the North Puget Sound League named THS wrestler Mike Gasper as one of two co-winners of wrestler of the year.

The team's overall record in the Cascade Division this year was 6-2.

Basketball player named to NPSL All-League
The North Puget Sound League boys basketball coaches recently announced the All-League Selections for the Cascade Division. Tahoma High School senior Kimball Cottam was named to first team All-League.

MONDAY, Feb. 18
NO SCHOOL, districtwide, in observance of President's Day and for midwinter break, Feb. 18-22.

MONDAY, Feb. 25
Tahoma School Board meeting to interview potential board candidates, 6:30 p.m., district office

TUESDAY, Feb. 26
Tahoma School Board meeting, 6:30 p.m., district office

(Tentative, if needed) Tahoma School Board meeting to continue interviews with potential board candidates, 6:30 p.m., district office

FRIDAY, March 1
Empty Bowls Fundraiser benefiting Maple Valley Food Bank, 5-8 p.m., $20, Cedar Lodge

TUESDAY, March 5
High School & Beyond Night, 6-9 p.m. (see brief above), THS

Birth-21 Transition Night, 6-9 p.m. (see brief above), THS

Future Freshman Night, 6:30-8:15 p.m., (see brief above), THS

The Tahoma School District does not discriminate in any programs or activities on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups The following employees have been designated to handle questions and complaints of alleged discrimination:
Title IX Officer
Director of Human Resources
25720 Maple Valley Highway
Maple Valley, WA 98038
ADA Coordinator
Director of Human Resources
25720 Maple Valley Highway
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Section 504 Coordinator
Director of Special Services
25720 Maple Valley Highway
Maple Valley, WA 98038
Tahoma Matters staff Wendy Castleman: wcastlem@tahomasd.us
Tahoma School District | 425-413-3400 | Visit our website
25720 Maple Valley-Black Diamond Rd. S.E., Maple Valley, WA 98038