5 things students want to know about Snow Days
CASTLE ROCK - It’s hard to believe that after several years of no snow days, we’ve had THREE this year. Many students, like myself, have wondered how these decisions are made and why.
Speaking to my friends at Douglas County High School, it’s pretty clear that decision behind snow days is a big mystery for most students. Rumors sometimes emerge throughout DCSD’s schools, and it might be hard for us to determine what’s true and what isn’t. As an intern with DCSD’s Community Relations Department, I decided to set out and get some answers.
Q: How does Douglas County decide if there is going be a snow day?
A: When the snow starts to fall, the District’s Snow Team gets to work. They monitor forecasts, accumulations and road conditions. Early in the morning bus drivers check out routes and snow plow drivers relay first-hand reports.
Based on all the information received, the Snow Team makes a recommendation for closure or delay to the superintendent, based on criteria listed on the website. Again, this is only a recommendation. The superintendent has the final say.
Q: Is the superintendent from Alaska?
A: Dr. Fagen is actually from Iowa, where they do get a lot of snow -- but not as much as Alaska. In the end, the superintendent has a difficult job of balancing the safety of students and staff and the mission of the District -- educating students. She takes the decision seriously and knows regardless of the outcome, not everyone will be satisfied.
Q: Do they take into consideration teen drivers when making the decision?
A: While some of us have questioned whether the District actually cares about student safety on social media, the Snow Team does take teen drivers into consideration. The decision, however, cannot be made solely on the skills of individual drivers.
Snow, ice, and slush are common in Colorado this time of year, so it is important that anyone getting behind the wheel of a car practices driving in these conditions. I’ve found that practicing in a parking lot on the weekends or after school has helped my skills tremendously.
Additionally, the decision cannot be made based on the conditions in one place within the county. Douglas County is large and diverse in terms of geography and weather. It is possible that Larkspur could get 10 inches of snow, while Highlands Ranch only gets a dusting. The District can choose to close or delay the entire District or a region (Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch or Parker) -- but conditions can vary greatly between in rural and elevated areas of a region.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself to school, you might want to ask a parent or a friend for a ride.
When it comes down to it, parents have the ultimate say. The District respects their judgement when it comes to whether it is safe in your specific situation and will excuse the absence. With that being said, it’s in your best interest to email your teachers for assignments you missed or ask your friends for the notes from History class.
Q: Don’t we have several days built in to the calendar? Do we lose the days if we don’t use them? What happens if we go over?
A: All DCSD schools build in some additional time in case of a snow day or some other emergency situation like a water main break or power outage; both of which have happened this year. While every school’s schedule is different, most have about four days of buffer.
That doesn’t mean those days are just there to burn. In the end, secondary schools have to provide students at least 1,080 hours of instruction throughout the year. That is the minimum. If we want funding for teachers and those shiny new MacBooks, we must meet that requirement.
If, for whatever reason, they are unable to meet that time requirement, schools may choose to expand the school day or add days at the end of the school year. We don’t want that to happen because that cuts into our summer. So, those days that we get two inches of snow and we are all complaining about not having a snow day are probably better off being used as a normal school day. Would you rather take that day and have to make it up at the end of the school year? I personally don’t want to take a day of our summer to put towards making up the unnecessary snow day. Again, just a personal opinion. I’m sure a few of you would agree.
Q: Is true that the District doesn’t give snow days, because it saves them money?
A: Whether or not school is canceled, snow days are quite expensive.
There are certainly certain additional expenses on a snow day that most of us wouldn’t think of like the impact on Nutrition Services.
“The schools have bought all the food, and it’s sitting there in the refrigerators. That’s expensive because it’s a service that’s being provided but now not being used on a snow day,” said Janece Rogers, who oversees student records. “If it spoils, that’s expensive.”
It, however, is likely more expensive to keep school open on a snow day, because in addition to all the normal expenses, the District has to move all of that snow and turn up the heat.
In the end, however, the cost of a snow day has no effect on the decision. The snow team is focused on the conditions and safety.
Learn more about snow days at https://www.dcsdk12.org/school-closure-status
Editors Note: Every day this week, we will add new Q and A's.
Story written by DCSD Student Reporter Brad Cooley, a junior at Douglas County High School.