Park City Students Take A Powder Day Even When School Is Not Cancelled

Jan 25, 2019

Credit Park City Mountain Powder

As a rule, Park City School District does not cancel school for snow. Administrators look at a handful of concerns and decide to close or stay open in the wee hours before buses leave the garage. Last week, a wet, heavy snowfall snarled Park City traffic causing many delays. But school was on. Carolyn Murray has this:

In Park City, school closing for snow days is decided by the Superintendent usually in the very early hours of the morning. Park City School Board President, Andrew Caplan, said it’s up to parents to decide if they want their kids to go to school even when it hasn’t been cancelled due to weather.  He said the protocol is the Superintendent, Transportation Director and Business Administrator make the decision to close due to safety.

Caplan said Friday's storm last week was also the start of a long holiday weekend, and the fresh snow  Thursday night into Friday morning may have encouraged more students to skip school and go powder skiing.

“You know, when there are heavy storms, it’s the parent’s option whether or not to bring their children to school late or to keep them at home if they don’t believe that they’re safe. So, from that perspective, it’s, you know, we’re trying to offer as much flexibility while keeping our schools open.”

High school principal, Roger Arbabi, told KPCW attendance on Friday was less than 50 percent.  A little over 800 students are enrolled at Treasure Mountain Junior High and they had about 200 absences in the morning. Absences swelled to about 350 by the end of the day.

“There’s a combination of things that happened. You know, parents didn’t feel comfortable sending their kids to school. That was one of them. But I think the big, main thing is the night before, I was actually at an ice hockey game, and they told me that there were actually a lot of kiddos thinking about taking a powder day, which is a new phenomenon for me. They were actually planning on going powder skiing that day.”

He said all the high school teachers made it in and they were able to conduct class. Kids with excused absences will have to make up the work.

“We had coverage for all of our teachers. All of our teachers did make it up. There were a couple that made it in a little late, but everybody checked around to make sure we had coverage. The message that we sent to the teachers is we need to conduct class. And those students who are excused  can make the work up. I think that has to be something we are going to fine tune a little bit more. When this situation arises in the future, we just have to be sure the teachers just continue with the lessons, and not make it a lost day for that 46 percent who were here. That’s going to be something that we have to focus on.”

School District Transportation Director Richard Eddington told KPCW they use GPS to track every bus and most delivered students to school within five to 10 minutes of the scheduled arrival times.

“Our slowest bus was 37 minutes late. And, that’s using the GPS that we track all the buses with. They were 37 minutes late dropping off at Ecker. Every bus was between five and fifteen minutes late just because there was so much traffic and cars that can’t move in the snow and the buses get stacked up behind the cars. 248 was horrible and 224 wasn’t much better. We did have one bus get stuck up on Summit Park on Friday morning and other buses kind of jumped in and helped cover parts of her route because it took some time to get her unstuck.”

Eddington said they’re looking at an app that would allow parents and students to track their bus in live time on the same GPS system the transportation department uses.

“We’ve been discussing that with the Superintendent and others here the last couple of months. And saying hey this is something we can look into doing. We’ve actually gone through the request for information on whose apps are the best and getting it set up to actually go. Actually, we’re getting it to the point where we might have it by the end of this year and running smoothly by the time next year begins if all goes well.”

KPCW contacted Superintendent Jill Gildea for comment on school closing procedure. She was unavailable.

Below is Park City School District’s Snow Day procedure:   

Procedures for School Closure Days

The District’s number one priority is safety of all students and staff. During the winter months, schools in Park City School District will remain open, if at all possible, on all scheduled school days. Even when weather conditions are severe, every effort will be made to keep schools open in the belief that it is in the best interest of the students.

The decision to close school, delay start time, or release students and staff early can only be made by the superintendent; this includes cancellation of any elementary after-school programs. When schools close early due to weather, all evening activities will be cancelled, with the exception of high school athletics and activities, which will be determined by the superintendent and athletic director. Sometimes there are exceptions to this rule; and we will notify you of these situations as they arise.

By policy, head secretaries and 12-month employees, which includes principals and assistant principals, are expected to report to work as soon as it is safe to do so. This expectation is based upon the issue that we may have families who do not receive notification and may come to the schools.

The District recognizes the rights of parents to make decisions that are best for their children. Therefore, the option to keep children home when weather conditions are severe is always at the parents’ discretion and the school respects the decision. An excused absence is given if the parents make the decision for their student(s) to remain home.

The following information outlines the communication procedures that will be followed if such school closures or early dismissals become necessary.

The district team begins monitoring weather and as early as 2:00 AM by monitoring UDOT road condition reports,  the National Weather Service weather conditions and patterns, and in consultation with city and county transportation officials. An additional issue is that we are dependent upon on how fast the the city and county can clear the roads.  A decision is made by 5:00 a.m.

Media Announcements

Parents and employees should listen to the following news media for school closure information starting at 6:00 A.M.

Radio Station:  KPCW

TV Station: PCTV

Other Sources:

The PCSD website (pcschools.us)

PCSD Newsroom (newsroom.pcschools.us)

Facebook

Twitter

Normal Operation

No announcement means normal operation; school are open.

Parents Need An Emergency Plan

Parents are encouraged to establish an emergency plan for their children in the event that schools are closed, or are dismissed early. Parents should instruct their children where to go or what to do if a parent is not at home. We encourage parents to have a written plan and to also share that plan with a trusted neighbor or friend to help in times of school closures.

Bus Stops

On severe weather days, understand that buses may be running late due to road conditions and/or traffic delays. In some areas, our buses may need to meet students at an alternate locations due to road conditions. Please watch for an email message regarding those locations or delayed bus routes. Parents are always asked to wait with and/or meet their students at bus stops when buses are running on delayed or emergency schedules.

Closures Are For One Day Only

All announcements are for one day only.

Make-Up Day

Per District Policy 5000, any full day of school missed due to weather conditions will be made up at a later date.  The 2017-18 calendar clearly designates June 7, 2018, as a full make-up day, if necessary.