By Dominic Furer
Every once in a while, Roaring Fork Valley children wake up to the blissful news of a snow day. School is canceled, they get to sleep in and don’t have to concern themselves with whatever it was they were supposed to do in class that day. All kids adore snow days, and it’s fun for students, teachers and parents alike to have a break from daily routines. But, snow days have more to them than people might assume.
On Oct. 26, a Roaring Fork School District (RFSD) bus slipped on the road and drove into a snowbank. Luckily, there were no student passengers on board and no one was harmed. Other students and their families reported experiencing similarly close calls. The question on many peoples’ minds: “Why wasn’t school called off that day?”
The process of scheduling and enacting a snow day is determined by the district’s transportation department. The department relies on weather forecasts to help predict when there may be heavy snowfall. They wake up as early as 2 a.m. to ponder the calculations, and by 5:30 a.m. a decision should be reached. If a snow day is called, the district spreads the word by contacting parents.
“We have to find resources and tools to guide our decision making, and for the most part it has a pretty high success rate,” Jeff Gatlin, RFSD’s chief operating officer, told The Sopris Sun.
Still, despite the efforts of this dutiful department, they may not always get it right. For one, the weather forecast influences the decision — the estimations of which can be mistaken. At times, a snow day will be called only for the snow to dissipate by the early afternoon. Then again, there are others when a storm will slip under the radar and cause slick conditions on the roads — but the transportation department had no prior warning.
Such conditions can be troubling for families. Some parents or guardians have difficulty driving in snow and many don’t have the proper vehicles to handle bad weather.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic children and teachers are accustomed to remote learning. Students open their laptops, join the class call and it’s “virtually” like they are back in the classroom. Some parents and students have found that they even prefer this method of education. Given as much, it has proven to be possible to proceed with curriculums when students are unable to leave their homes, some might wonder if snow days are a thing of the past.
Despite some hassle that may stem from snow days — not to mention, virtual-learning feasibly making them obsolete — there are some benefits to consider.
First and foremost, snow days allow for extra sleep. According to a 2015 Center for Disease Control study, a staggering 72.7% of the high school students surveyed typically had a shorter sleep duration than is recommended. There are considerable health risks involved in the youth being sleep deprived, such as drowsiness and depression.
Another benefit of snow days is keeping people off of the road. Not only is this safer for everybody, but it reduces the amount of pollution we put into the air. Finally, many children and families alike believe snow days are a tradition of the American public school system.
Regardless of today’s political and sociological division, all can agree that the safety of students, parents and teachers is of utmost importance when it comes to public education. And, through whatever obstacles which may have to be navigated in the future, families can count on the staff at RFSD to put forth their best effort in making appropriate decisions.