At 5 a.m. this morning, when Jefferson County officials decided to declare a snow day, there wasn't all that much of the stuff. Even in the Ken-Caryl Ranch area, near the foothills, only about an inch of it had collected on driveways. But Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer says the prospect of more precipitation prompted the call. "It was based on snow falling throughout the day," she says. "We didn't want to get kids at school and then have a dangerous situation getting them home. We'd rather err on the side of safety for kids, even though it can be risky."
Not risky for the kids -- risky for public relations, if the storm peters out.
Still, Setzer says the district seldom gets much push-back either from parents who would rather supervisors wait for the snow to build up instead of relying on predictions or old-timers who remember the days when schools would remain in session unless the snow accumulation could be measured in feet. "Mostly, parents are grateful that we as early as possible let them know there's not going to be school, so they can plan their day," she says. "That's another reason we try to think ahead. If we start sending kids home early and parents aren't there, that's not a good situation."
Given the enormous size of Jefferson County, conditions can vary widely near the various schools -- especially the mountain schools, which Jeffco can close even on days when its other facilities remain open. Today, that wasn't a debate: "Based on the forecast of snow all day today and part of tomorrow, it felt like a safe call to close all the schools," she notes.
What about tomorrow, given that predictors currently see snow continuing through 6 p.m. Thursday and perhaps intensifying again in the morning hours? Setzer offers no promises, but she does say the superintendent's office doesn't have to wait until tomorrow at 5 a.m. to pull the snow-day trigger again. "I think that's going to be a day-part by day-part call," she allows. "If things aren't looking good at five o'clock tonight or three o'clock this afternoon, the superintendent will make that decision."
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And now, students: Let us pray.