Denver Public Schools open while most districts are closed -- and not everyone's happy about it

When some Denver-area schools are closed due to weather, they're usually all closed. But today, Denver Public Schools went rogue, holding classes despite the second day of cold-related closures by other major districts. DPS spokesman Michael Vaughn says parental gripes have gone both ways this week.

Vaughn concedes that "we heard complaints yesterday because schools were closed" -- the arguments are expressed in a Tuesday post in which a reader argues that districts were "big pussies" for shutting down due to low temperatures -- "and we're hearing complaints today from parents that schools are open."

Neither reaction is surprising, he maintains. "We understand that this is a very important safety matter, and we totally respect our parents' judgment when it comes to attendance. That's why all absences will be excused today, and all weather-related tardies will be excused. If parents feel they shouldn't send their kids out in the cold, then they should keep their kids home."

Far from insisting that DPS makes determinations about closures independently, Vaughn stresses that "we consult with everybody. This is a very important decision and we take it very seriously -- consider all the factors we can and then use our best judgment to do the right thing for all our families."

In the end, this last factor tipped the scales toward opening.

"We serve tens of thousands of families with working parents who are on moderate incomes, and who don't have paid days off from work -- and if there was a day off school for the second straight day, it would be a tremendous hardship," Vaughn argues. "And these are public schools. We feel an obligation to serve the public as much as possible -- and we also have tens of thousands of kids who get two and sometimes three meals a day at school, and receive other services we feel are important. So we think it's important for our buildings to be open as much as possible."

Among the factors cited by other districts in regard to closures was the fear that buses would break down under the frigid conditions. But as of this writing, Vaughn says the worst hasn't taken place for DPS.

"We have a fleet of 325 buses," he notes. "Routes began at 6:30, and right now, things are running fairly smoothly."

As for kids in Jefferson County and elsewhere in Denver metro, they're probably still asleep.

More from our News archive: "Freezing your ass off?: You could live at house in Westminster that nearly became an ice rink."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts