Summit School District families get creative on first snow day of school year
For many kids, nothing beats waking up in the morning to the news of a snow day.
With a snow day for Summit School District on Thursday, Jan. 6, it was the perfect day for students to hit the slopes, head to work with a parent or cozy up at home in their pajamas. The last time the district had a closure due to weather was Feb. 7, 2020.
Amy Kemp, marketing manager at Beaver Run Resort, said she’s fortunate to be in a job where she can bring her 9-year-old daughter to work when necessary and that she and her husband traded off halfway through the workday. Kemp said her daughter had to endure a work meeting with her before the mother-daughter duo got to hit the slopes for a few runs.
While Kemp turned off her daughter’s alarm clock to let her sleep in after learning about the school cancellation, the 9-year-old was up before the crack of dawn ready for some snow day excitement.
“I have such fond memories of snow days, too, as a kid, and it was one of those moments of, ‘Well, your father and I both work in the hospitality industry in tourism, so we don’t get snow days, but we can still make this fun for you,’” Kemp said. “So she came to work with me. … It’s just that juggling act that we always play out here in Summit County when both parents work and both parents are in the hospitality industry.”
Kemp lives in the Wellington neighborhood and joked that with so many families having kids out of school in the area, it certainly wasn’t a quiet work-from-home day for anyone in the neighborhood.
Heidi Wilson said her daughter, who is a student at Snowy Peaks, was curled up on the couch in her pajamas for the snow day, but she would have been just as happy to go to school.
Wilson said she wishes there was a way for the district to notify families earlier of school cancellations and delays. She said while her family is one of the few with other family members in the area to help with kids as needed, she knows many folks who have to scramble at the last minute when something like this happens.
“I would love to see if there was a better way,” Wilson said. “… Changes in school schedules drastically affect people that live and work here.”
District spokesperson Andrea Ridder said the district’s leadership team met midday Wednesday, Jan. 5, to evaluate the winter weather advisory. The team met again early Thursday, and Ridder said it was “very clear” at about 4:30-5 a.m. that canceling school was the safest option for staff, students and community members.
“Roads had not been cleared at that time, and the snow was still falling with strong winds and low visibility,” Ridder wrote in an email.
Ridder said student and staff safety is the district’s top priority, and the main factors district officials weigh in closing schools are road conditions, ability to safely deploy buses and families’ abilities to drive students to school.
Wendy Frazier spent her day working from home, sending her 15-year-old off to ski in Breckenridge and her 12-year-old off to ski at Arapahoe Basin via Summit Stage’s Swan Mountain Flyer. After finishing up work herself, Frazier went to meet her daughter and husband at Breckenridge for a bit.
“I thought that the district did a really great job of forward planning and getting the information out nice and early so that kids were able to go back to sleep or whatever and enjoy it,” Frazier said.
Thursday would have been only the second day elementary school students were back in the classroom with a delayed return from the holiday break. Ridder said two elementary schools, Upper Blue and Summit Cove, worked remotely Wednesday due to the district’s inability to staff the buildings for in-person school.
“The district has high numbers of staff out due to COVID and other seasonal illnesses,” Ridder said.
Ridder added that district leadership evaluates staff and student absences daily to determine which schools can deliver in-person instruction.
“Our threshold to move to the five-day temporary online learning environment is 15% to 20% of staff out in buildings,” Ridder said. “Once we reach the threshold, we cross-check our substitute availability to determine if we can safely deliver in-person instruction or if we have to move students online.”
Ridder said the district’s goal is to have students learning in person as long as it has the staff to do so, and it will continue with this hybrid model as long as necessary.
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