A Behind the scenes look at what goes into calling a snow day
Originally posted by Truckee Tahoe Unified School District
Deciding whether or not to call a snow day is not as straightforward or as easy as you may think, and the decision is not taken lightly. We want to ensure our students and staff are safe every day, so when a storm hits, our Superintendent Chief Learning Officer and our Transportation Director are up at the wee hours of the morning evaluating whether or not it is safe to have school that day.
It’s all about safety!
An extensive evaluation process goes on behind the scenes at the district any time a winter storm is forecasted.
What we evaluate:
- The forecast for predicted snow amounts and elevation, as well as wind, ice, temperatures, and rain.
- The status of Interstate 80, SR 28, SR 89, and SR 267 for road conditions, closures, and chain requirements. In addition to the district’s main roadways and bus routes, we check on secondary roadways as well. We also check on the condition of roadways for students to stand while waiting at bus stops.
- Put safety first, for students and staff. This is our top priority.
- Consult professionals such as the California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, the National Weather Service offices in Sacramento and Reno, the Town of Truckee and the Placer and Nevada county road departments to determine if the roads are safe for buses to travel.
- We have a very large school district – 723 square miles – and the weather can vary from one location to another.
- Our services, such as food services and transportation, are interconnected. (Note, based on their location on Donner Summit, we do look at Donner Trail Elementary separately. There are times when we call a snow day there but not anywhere else in the district.)
- We have to make the decision by 4:30 a.m.
- It can leave some parents in a bind, especially if they have to be at work that day.
How we notify parents of a snow day:
- The decision to call a snow day is made by 4:30 a.m. and is posted on our website by 5:00 a.m.
- Calls go out to parents at 6:00 a.m. (If you would like to be part of the earlier call group, please contact your school office.)
- A notification is also sent out through our mobile app. (Our free mobile app is a great way to stay in tuned with what’s happening throughout the district, including snow days).
Since we live in the mountains we always build in three snow days into each school year calendar. If there are more than three, those days are added onto the school year calendar in the spring. If there are less than three, then they are deducted from the calendar.
Considering alternatives to snow days?
We often get asked why don’t we offer educational alternatives for snow days like Washoe County does with “digital days.” We’d love to, but unfortunately, the California State Education Code (Ed Code) prevents us from doing so. We can only make up days or try to seek waivers for excess days from the state.
Per Ed Code independent study is voluntary and we can’t require it for things like “digital days.” In California, there must be a “seat-based program” offered for actual attendance on days when students have independent study. We also can’t add minutes to school days, nor can we require “homework” or independent study. This is an issue that needs to be addressed at the state level – with legal changes. TTUSD has worked with lobbyists in the past and will continue to do so to try to affect change at the state level.