DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Wednesday morning’s commute was not the easiest for many drivers as snow dumped on the Denver metro area. Still, some school districts like Douglas County chose not to close or delay.
The decision did not sit well with some parents including Matt Perry.
“It’s a conflicting message and it forces parents to be in a weird predicament because they’re trying to keep their kids safe and the school is saying we’re open,” Perry said. “To me it’s just not worth the risk that’s potentially there.”
Perry’s two sons go to a charter school within the Douglas County School District (DCSD). While the school can make its own weather calls, it decided to side with Dougco and remain open.
Perry is a former meteorologist and tracked this story as it approached.
“It’s not worth it right now and being that it’s forecasted to snow for the remainder of the day the conditions are not going to get better, right? So that was my concern,” he said. “I’m not willing to put my kids in a dangerous situation so that they can go color pictures in first grade or learn basic math in fourth grade.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) said crews had been in snow mode since Tuesday.
“In CDOT-world this is your average storm, certainly it’s not a 10 and it’s not a one, it’s somewhere in between,” CDOT spokesperson Tamara Rollison said.
Because some of the large school districts chose not to operate on a delay more people were out in slick conditions.
“The more motorists that are out there, the more crashes that we are going to experience, and obviously that’s going to be more challenging for our crews out there,” Rollison said. “Our crews are out there in full force doing everything that they can to increase the traction of the roads, but they still will be slick.”
Perry does not regret his decision in letting his kids stay home. It’s not the first time he decided against the charter school. He said he just hopes they put more thought into their snow day decision-making process.
“We’ve had less snow and no school, or colder temperatures with no school, or we’ve had more snow and normal start schedules,” Perry explained. “Is there a tipping point somewhere? What’s the formula that’s being used?”
Perry told 9NEWS he received an email from his son’s school midday cancelling all after-school activities. Douglas County School District Superintendent Erin Kane sent a note explaining the snow day decision process is difficult and admitted sometimes they do not get it right.
The full statement issued by Kane reads:
“I hope you are all safe and warm. As you can imagine, we have received feedback on today’s weather decision. School districts across the Denver/Metro area remained open, while most school districts in Colorado Springs shut down, and we found ourselves in this weird place in the middle with the forecast varying widely across our district.
Weather calls are always difficult, with many factors to balance. We have families who struggle with child care and do not get paid if they do not go to work. We have teenage drivers, parents driving kids across the district to the school of their choice, children at bus stops, staff members trying to get to work from across the metro area, and the limited use of snow days due to instructional hour requirements (so that we don’t have to extend our school year). We also continue to have challenges with labor shortages and competitive pay - causing bus route cancellations and a shortage of staff to clear snow and prepare for the day.
Calling snow days can be a huge challenge (definitely not my favorite part of the job!), and we are not always going to get it right. It is always my goal to err on the side of safety. Now, I am not saying that we will be calling a snow day whenever it snows (we do live in Colorado, after all). We have already called delays and closures this school year and we have yet to enter our historically snowiest month of the year in Colorado.
Predicting the weather is no easy task. However, please know that we are listening to your feedback, taking it very seriously, and making appropriate adjustments to our snow team processes. We will strive to make the best call we can, with all factors considered, while erring on the side of the safety of our staff, students, and families.”
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