By Andy Sidel
Over the past few weeks, three colossal storms with drifts as high as car hoods and ice clumps the size of tires have hit Parker and the surrounding areas. So why hasn’t there been a snow day?
In the Douglas County School District a “snow team” is dedicated to monitoring incoming storms, assessing whether a closure or delay is needed and then communicating information to “stakeholders and the public”.
According to Douglas County School District’s (DCSD) Delay and Closure Decision Criteria, quite a few factors need to be checked off before the district has a snow day. For example, if snow falls “at a rate of 1 inch or more per hour where conditions are such that it is accumulating on the roadways and parking lots…” and the forecast does not change by 9 a.m., then a closure is recommended. A second way schools could be closed or delayed is if reports by bus drivers, security officers, police officers, and road crews include adverse or dangerous conditions. In that case, a 90 minute delay for all schools is recommended. The third major way that schools may be closed or cancelled is by monitoring rapidly changing conditions during the day.
Beginning early in the morning, several staff members of the DCSD snow team relay conditions observed across the county and at schools. If reports of “treacherous” conditions are relayed, the team of staff members makes a recommendation for a closure or delay to the superintendent, who makes the final decision.
According to Ben Harrison, a bus driver for the district, the district has a veteran bus driver who is part of the DCSD snow team that monitors road conditions. The veteran bus driver drives the roads at 2 a.m. and reports back to the bus drivers waiting at the district terminals.
“In Parker [On Feb. 25] the roads were icy and snow packed, but most of the drivers were able to make their stops on time. As a bus driver, you have to worry about how others around you are driving, not just how you are driving, since it is your job to get the kids in your care to school safely. It is a bit of added pressure to drive a bus in the snow and ice,” Harrison said. “Feb. 25 should have been a snow day, but I understand why the district didn’t call it, since the snow was melted by noon that day, so they knew conditions would be better later in the day.”
One DCSD employee jokingly questioned the necessity of these procedures and the snow team.
“Colorado is a snow state! We considered holding the frickin’ Winter Olympics! Half of Colorado’s economy comes from snow tourism,” government teacher Timothy Coit said. “School should stay open during a snow storm unless there is eight feet of snow.”
Hector Trevino, a sophomore, disagreed. “We should have had at least one snow day. Feb. 25 was a bad day and it was pretty dangerous. The other days DCSD made the right decision about keeping school open,” he said.
On some snowy days not all of the students attend. It is tough for teachers to continue to teach when many students do not attend class.
On Feb. 25, when school was delayed 90 minutes, teachers had to adapt to this situation. According to Mr. Timothy Coit, his lesson plans needed to be cut short because of the shorter period and certain activities could not occur due to a lack of students.
An anonymous sophomore stated, “A snow day is a good idea to keep people safe, but not when there’s a light sprinkle. I don’t really care that kids didn’t come–that’ their problem. However, I do know of a teacher or two who did not teach during my classes.” The sophomore was in class on Feb. 25 and was shocked that kids weren’t showing up despite relatively clear roads.
Another student who wanted to remain anonymous, said, “On Feb. 25, half of my classes were empty. Two teachers didn’t teach. We sat in one class and threw questions at another teacher for extra credit the entire time. In my other class, we played Mastermind on the board for three-fourths of the class and then talked about what TCAP was going to be like. The classrooms were empty and I didn’t learn a thing. I told my parents it was a waste of my time that day.”
“Kids who do not come to school are just being high-schoolers and are looking for a day off. This is reflected by a drop in attendance that is visible. Teachers still teach as if it were a normal day. The delay that DCSD gave us was done in the best interest of everyone. The roads ended up being fine by late morning and they made a smart decision,” said math teacher John Angelo.
Some of the student’s frustration comes when other schools have a snow day and they do not. For example, Elizabeth High School was closed three days in February.
“The DCSD makes decisions based upon safety for students, teachers, and parents. Whether or not a student goes to school is up to each individual family. It costs money to close the district for a day and if there are too many snow days, school runs later into June. The district tries to make a decision in a timely manner to give students, teachers, and parents time to make decisions,” said Principal Corey Wise.
Although Legend and Douglas County have not had any days off for snow, there is still hope. WInter isn’t over yet. Everyone is surely in a snow daze.