DCSD teams with community to bring students home safely
DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO – "We are happy to report that our sixth grade Outdoor Ed group returned home safely overnight. As you may know, our students and staff stayed an extra night at the YMCA of the Rockies due to the extensive flooding along the Front Range, including in Estes Park," announced Molly Gnaegy, Pine Grove Elementary Principal, on Saturday, September 14.
"With the outstanding support of DCSD's Transportation Department and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, we were able to safely transport the group out of Estes Park late Friday evening. All of our students arrived home early Saturday morning."
Last week, a group of 87 sixth graders and six adults were stranded at Estes Park due to the extreme weather. The Pine Grove Elementary (Parker, CO) students were attending a regularly scheduled outdoor education field trip at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. Due to the extreme weather conditions, the group was not able to return home as scheduled.
The only major road into Estes Park was completely flooded and Trail Ridge Road was the only available alternative to exit Estes Park. Unfortunately, the high mountain road is only open during the summer months. As DCSD monitored the forecast, it was apparent there was only a brief window of time on Friday when the rain would slow down and make a rescue possible. DCSD and the Douglas County Sheriff's Office contacted the National Park Service to request that Trail Ridge Road be opened briefly in order to rescue students.
Once given permission to enter the park, DCSD dispatched a convoy of 15 SUV's, two small activity buses, and a service truck to pick up the students and staff. A Douglas County Sheriff's deputy escorted the group the entire trip. The convoy left at approximately 2:40 p.m. on Friday. All the transportation professionals who were dispatched had trained specifically on Trail Ridge Road.
"Throughout the entire process the safety of the staff and students was the primary concern of both the Pine Grove staff and District administration," said DCSD Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagen.
"This was absolutely a team effort," said Fagen. "The district leadership team and Pine Grove Elementary coordinated a community-wide effort to bring our students home safely. We had our best drivers transporting students, our operations team coordinated the trip with the National Park Service and the YMCA of the Rockies; Nutrition Services quickly assembled food and snacks for students; Communications provided information to parents and support for Pine Grove staff; and, the Douglas County Sheriff provided leadership and an escort for the rescue convoy," continued Fagen.
In the interim, the Pine Grove Elementary group was evacuated from the YMCA of the Rockies to a general evacuation point near Estes Park and the convoy met them there. The group arrived home to roars of applause and cheering from overjoyed parents and staff just shy of 1 a.m. Saturday morning.
"We first want to thank the parents and staff that were with our kids during the trip, they did a tremendous job of taking care of our students. Next, our office staff and the district communications team did a tremendous job of coordinating communication and keeping our families informed about the situation," continued Gnaegy. "Thank you also to our entire school community, especially the sixth grade parents, for their patience and understanding during this difficult situation. We are extremely thankful that our students are now home, safe and sound."
The rescue of the Pine Grove Elementary students was a bright spot in the otherwise harrowing and tragic news this week. "Our hearts go out to the families who have suffered and lost during this extraordinary week of flooding," said Fagen.