January 26, 2023
How are Snow days determined?
Please remember January 16,17, and 18, now those were snow days! We essentially had 3 feet of snow in 3 days (give or take, depending on your location). During those days the state/county/city couldn’t keep up clearing the
roads with how fast it was coming down, I/we couldn’t keep our driveways clear to get to work even if we wanted to, and Fonz and his crew couldn’t keep up at the schools and bus barn; running the bus routes would have been impossible, heck, getting out of the bus barn would have been tough! So, with that said, how do we determine if we delay the start of school, or not have school at all?
Well, it all starts between 3 and 4am when Fonz heads to work from his house. He usually gives me a call and tells me how the roads are once he makes it here. Sometimes these decisions are easy, and sometimes not. If it's a tough call, I’ll get my coffee and Bernie (my dog) and we’ll go drive around. After driving, I’ll turn to Bernie and say “what do you think” and whatever he says goes, and that’s how we call snow days! OK, that’s a joke – back to the serious side.
Our transportation director also goes out early and calls the county, and talks to the road crews to see what they have to say. At this time, I’m also getting texts from other Superintendents and we are sharing information on the road conditions and what we are thinking. This is the least helpful to me because all of our districts are different and have different conditions, especially Cortez at a thousand feet lower.
Safety, of course, is the number one concern – can the staff and students get to school safely. Other issues: Are the roads drivable? Can you see the ditches and the road? Will our staff have time to dig their cars out to get to work? Is it going to snow so much during the day that it will be hard to get home? How are the county roads looking? The city roads? The state roads? (All are different) And can the sidewalks be cleared before the students and staff get to school? These are all questions that are considered. Yes, I do have a weather app that I look to as well, but have found that the forecast and the radar are unreliable in our area. The closest Doppler is in Grand Junction and it just doesn’t “scan” in this area very well. I’ve literally looked at the radar while it said it wasn’t snowing, only to look out the window to see a literal white-out!
There are other considerations too: Which kids don’t eat today because we called a snow day? Which single parent won’t go to work because they have to stay home to watch their kid(s) and therefore have a hard time making ends
meet? I think about these things too! There’s a human factor and a domino effect that simply can’t be ignored.
One other consideration is “will we have to make up these days?” The state sets requirements on attendance, and our funding is dependent on meeting those requirements. So far, we have built in enough extra days so that we’re ok, but we are getting close and still have quite a bit of winter remaining.
So with all that said, I’ll say this: It’s usually not an easy call, and no matter what I decide, someone is going to disagree. I will continue to weigh out all of the factors and utilize the bad weather procedures and team to make the best decision possible.
Yours in education,