Denver Public Schools are closed today, October 30, owing to icy roads caused by several days of snow in the metro area.
This decision, announced late last night, long after most other local districts had already made a similar call, prevents another explosion of anger from parents and guardians on social media. But frustration still lingers over the district's terrible performance on October 29, when the schedule was allowed to move forward per normal, without even a delayed start, followed by an early closure that further inconvenienced families and was marked by lousy communication.
For an educational institution, DPS certainly doesn't seem to learn from past mistakes. Look no further than past Westword headlines such as "Denver Public Schools Superintendent Apologizes for Calling Snow Day So Late," from February 26, 2015, and "Denver Public Schools Bashed on Social Media for Late Snow Day Call — Again," from March 26, 2016. And earlier this year, on January 29, mere weeks after Susana Cordova took over as DPS superintendent, we wrote about blowback caused by the district declining to call a snow day or a delayed start despite a snowstorm that essentially paralyzed the city for an extended stretch.
Some folks were upset that DPS didn't declare a snow day on Monday, October 28, since the white stuff had started falling the previous day, making travel tricky in some areas. Those emotions boiled over the next day, when a band of snow initially predicted to strike on the afternoon of October 29 instead rolled through metro Denver starting around 5 a.m., and quickly turned the commute into a demolition derby.
In the meantime, the district suffered from a near-complete communication breakdown. As streets and highways got slicker and slicker, spokespersons were rolled out to explain that the snow-day decision had to be made by 4:30 a.m., and at that point, conditions were fine. Never mind that this timeline actually contradicts information contained in a DPS video on the topic, which states that its chief operating officer is to be informed about the prospects for a closure at 3:30 a.m., with the superintendent giving a yea or nay by 4 a.m. and media outlets getting the information no later than 5 a.m. See the complete clip below.
As the problems escalated, Denver Public Schools' Facebook page offered no updates until 9:14 a.m., when the following bland post appeared: "All DPS schools are open and operating on a normal schedule today, Tuesday, Oct. 29. Due to road conditions, there may be minor delays on some bus routes. All field trips and afterschool activities are canceled for the day."
This stance lasted barely two hours. At 11:26 a.m., DPS announced that "due to weather and travel conditions," students attending district middle schools and high schools would be released at noon, just 34 minutes later, and elementary school pupils would be unleashed at 2 p.m.
This pivot created a worst-case scenario. First, parents had to get their kids to schools, which many of them chose not to do; a DPS elementary school where I volunteer on most Tuesdays had between 35 and 40 percent attendance. With such light turnout, teachers can't introduce new information, since more than half the students aren't present — so they're left to essentially babysit those who showed up. Then, after finally getting to work, adults were suddenly put in the position of dropping everything in order to pick up their children much earlier than anticipated, further screwing up their day.
Robocalls to parents about this shift were, to use a scholastic term, tardy. One person posted: "Thanks for the call at 12:15 to let me know my middle schooler had been released at noon." A second added: "Thanks for calling us at 2:30 to let us know school lets out at 2:00."
Plenty of graphics showed up in the DPS Facebook comments section, too, including this one:
Most feedback, though, was expressed in text form, and it couldn't have made DPS reps happy. Some examples:
Please close tomorrow. I don’t have the option of just calling in. I live 20 minutes from work and this morning it took me an hour and a half to get there
Susana Cordova needs to get off her sofa and go outside and walk 7 blocks away from her home and back and then drive from her house to the school that is about 20 miles away and then tell parents and teachers and students not to show up for school tomorrow
To the parents: Take control of the situation, back your kids, your teachers, your school staff. Don't send them. The parents have the power. The squeaky wheel always gets the grease!!!!!
From the state patrol: Employers: please consider if you actually NEED to be open Tuesday and Wednesday. Consider closing, opening late/closing early to allow employees better/staggered travel times, and above all: the safety of your people over profits. #cowx
So I am all for keeping schools open if parents need the child care and if teachers can get to school safely, but my child ended up watching a movie at school today. Is there anyway for schools to notify parents if the schools are only staying open for childcare reasons? I would have kept my daughter home and planned some fun learning experience/down time for us rather then taking her in. I truly support our teachers and schools and support that sometimes it is okay to have a snow day. I just think parents just need advanced notice to plan in advance for our children. Thank you for all that DPS does for our kids. Lets work together to support each other and our children.
Check this out DPS....my kids were home today and guess what?? THEY WILL BE HOME AGAIN TOMORROW! HOWEVER, they did do some mathwork online and some reading but also did some relaxing. Not even gonna lie. I'm not risking their safety for yalls attendance policies!
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Denver Public Schools didn't issue a release about today's closure until 9:25 p.m. on October 29, more than two hours after Adams 12 Five Star Schools started the big district flood by announcing it would be closed on October 30.
Then again, Jefferson County Public Schools took even longer to share its strategy for today, and when, at 10:11 p.m. on October 29, the district announced that instead of closing, it would operate on a two-hour delay schedule, plenty of parents reacted with disgust.
"Ridiculous!" exclaimed one person. "But then I wouldn’t expect anything different from Jeffco. Of course they’ll have the kids come tomorrow when everyone else is off! DUMB."
Jeffco Public Schools probably won't receive a thank-you note from DPS officials for at least temporarily taking the heat off them. But they should.