READ MORE: How families can prepare for a snow day
The turning color of the leaves and cooling temperatures are sure signs that Fall is here. Before we know it, snow and ice are certain to return too – and Boulder Valley School District is ready. An entire team at the district is prepared to monitor snowstorms, evaluate road conditions, shovel sidewalks, plow parking lots and ultimately make the big decision to delay or close schools, if necessary.
“A lot of thought and effort goes into these decisions,” explained BVSD Assistant Superintendent of Operational Services Rob Price. “We are committed to making sure that our students, our staff and families can get to the building safely and that we can get them home safely.”
“Our biggest challenge is the weather is so unpredictable,” said BVSD Maintenance Supervisor Carey Sager. “We really need people to understand each storm is different.”
“We spend a lot of time when we know a storm is coming – days in advance – watching the weather, talking to meteorologists, to understand what is coming in,” added Price.
As a storm approaches, BVSD receives frequent updates from SkyView Weather, which provides localized forecasts. The meteorologists offer specific insights into what we can expect in each of our communities from Nederland to Broomfield and Superior to Erie.
“Boulder Valley School District is spread out over 500 square miles, so we have a very wide range of diverse conditions all the way from Nederland at 9,000 feet to lower elevations in eastern Boulder County,” explained Price. “That makes the decision very complicated, very difficult.”
In the early hours before school, BVSD deploys its snow removal team to begin plowing and sends Transportation supervisors out onto the roads. They report back regarding the conditions they see across the district.
“The weather is unpredictable, we just never know what we are going to get into when we get out to each school,” explained Sager. “We have a wide range to cover, so some schools may have 8 inches, some may have 2 inches.”
“We not only think about those who are driving, but also the kids who are walking to school,” added Price. “We monitor the wind chill, sidewalk conditions, road conditions. Ultimately it is not about one person, not one place – we have to make these decisions for 31,000 students, the families that transport them and all of our staff members that commute across the district.”
Price says the team understands the great responsibility they have and the importance of the decision.
“We are trying to balance the safety of our staff and our students, the impact any decision will have on our working parents and guardians, and our mission of educating students and providing them the support they need,” said Price. “When our buildings are open, we know that they offer a warm place to go for students who may not have a home. Some of our students depend on our schools to be fed breakfast and lunch.”
Ultimately, we will never satisfy everyone, so we do everything possible to keep our buildings open and to make our campuses safe during a snowstorm, while also offering families the ability to make a decision for themselves on whether they can safely make it to school.
“Parents always have the option to make the decision to keep their students home during an adverse weather day. All they have to do is call the schools and that time will be granted off as an excused absence,” Price said.
Winter storm timeline
While many people are focused on the bottom of the TV screen or their social media feed, hoping for news of a snow day -- behind the scenes a lot is happening. We asked BVSD snow team members to walk us through a typical snowstorm.
Year-round, BVSD continuously monitors the weather through forecasts from SkyView Weather, the Weather Channel, and other sources. Watches and warnings from the National Weather Service help to provide insight into the possible severity of approaching storms.
The night before
Often winter storms come in overnight, so our team will typically gather the night before to discuss the latest forecasts, weather and road conditions. Whenever possible, we try to make a decision then, so our families and staff have plenty of time to make childcare arrangements.
Weather, however, is notoriously unpredictable in Colorado. Often storms that look like they may bring a lot of snow to the Front Range change course or weaken as they pass over the mountains. By waiting until the morning of, we can make a decision on updated forecasts and conditions.
The morning of
If snow has started to fall overnight, our snow removal crews get to work clearing all of the parking lots and the larger sidewalks at the schools.
BVSD’s Transportation department sends a handful of bus drivers to assess the road conditions on our routes throughout our communities and up into the mountains.
Snow removal and transportation crews relay their observations, as well as the latest weather and road reports to the Assistant Superintendent of Operational Services, who makes a recommendation to the Superintendent.
School custodians arrive at their buildings to ensure they have power and mechanical systems are working. They begin clearing snow from sidewalks.
No later than 5:30 a.m.
Once the decision is made, the Communications Department begins its work of notifying families, staff and the community. The decision is posted on the district website, social media and via local media outlets. If the decision is to delay or close school, BVSD sends alerts via email, phone and text message.
After the storm
Our snow removal crews and custodians continue to clear snow and ice around our schools to ensure the safety of our students, staff and families.