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Originally published Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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No school, but snow day still provides education

Some who made it to work Wednesday at the law offices of Davis Wright Tremaine in downtown Seattle got to loll the day away playing video...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Some who made it to work Wednesday at the law offices of Davis Wright Tremaine in downtown Seattle got to loll the day away playing video games and watching DVD movies.

No, it isn't the latest perk of a high-powered law firm. Just for the day, these "associates" were a half-dozen children whose parents brought them to work because they had no other choice: Schools were closed because of the weather.

The snowstorm that paralyzed motorists all over the Puget Sound area this week also wreaked havoc on thousands of working parents and their children. Those who couldn't stay home have been scurrying to arrange emergency child care, foisting kids on the in-laws, hiring baby-sitters at a premium — or showing up for work with the little ones in tow.

The toddler son of one of King County Executive Ron Sims' policy advisers spent Tuesday being shuffled from the county offices, where his mother works, to his father's office at the city of Seattle as his parents juggled meeting schedules and parenthood.

"If you both work, you have to stay home — or the child gets a career day," observed Carolyn Duncan, Sims' spokeswoman.

The county's employee policy discourages bringing children to work, but Duncan said, "Well, things happen."

At hospitals, utilities and other places that don't stop for snow, employee absenteeism was manageable.

For example, many departments at Seattle's Virginia Mason Medical Center were short-staffed Tuesday but not so Wednesday, said Kim Davis, a hospital spokeswoman. Fortunately, the hospital has on-site child care for use by employees and patients.

"A hospital is a unique organization," Davis said. Workers involved in patient care "are expected to make it in if they can."

But what if there's no choice but to stay home with the kids on a snow day? It really depends on the employer. Puget Sound Energy workers get a block of paid time off that can be used as vacation, sick days or personal time. King County employees must use their vacation or comp time.

So for parents who can get away with it, toting the kids to work can be the easiest option.

At Davis Wright Tremaine, reception manager Ann Wicker brought her 9-year-old son, Tommy, to work Wednesday and discovered she wasn't alone: An entire office had been converted into an impromptu day-care center.

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It was already a good day for Tommy when he woke up to find out he had a second day off from school. But then he got to spend the day in a video-game and movie fest with other employees' kids.

Tommy's mother got to warily monitor the weather for their commute home to Ballard.

"I was going to leave work early today, but he said no," Wicker said. "He's having too much fun."

Kyung Song: 206-464-2423 or ksong@seattletimes.com

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