Local snow days rarer than blue flakes | VailDaily.com

Local snow days rarer than blue flakes

Scott N. Miller
NWS Snow Days1 BH 2-3

EAGLE COUNTY – Eagle County has more solar eclipses than school snow days. That doesn’t sit well with Sally Ann Bluhm’s kids.”They’ve noticed we don’t have snow days,” said Bluhm, who has a kid at snowy Minturn Middle School. “They wish they had snow days, and they don’t understand why they don’t.”It’s not that the local schools don’t have snow days. It’s just that they’re rare enough that longtime residents remember vividly the times they’ve happened.Minturn native Bill Burnett, 85, can’t remember any snow days before the county’s patchwork of small-town school districts got together in the late 1950s to create the district as it is now.”Back then the kids could just walk to school,” Burnett said. “We didn’t need to worry about it.”Even in the 50 years or so local school kids have been carted around in buses, the times the buses couldn’t run can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.Pat Phelan has been a teacher in Eagle County for 33 years. One mid-winter day in 1974 or ’75, when Battle Mountain High School was still at Maloit Park in Minturn, there was simply too much snow for anyone to go anywhere for a day or so.”The roads were just ridiculous,” Phelan said. “We just couldn’t move.”

Battle Mountain closed one other day, right after the school in Eagle-Vail opened, due less to snow than frozen pipes. “Those are the only two times I can remember we didn’t have school,” Phelan said.There are extra school days built into the calendar every year, just in case.”We just don’t seem to need them,” School Board President Scott Green said. “It’s just been something we haven’t had to do.”Green, who grew up in Eagle County, remembers the one and only day Eagle Valley High School closed early because of weather. So does Tammy Conway.”It was 1979 or ’80,” said Conway. “Don Jacox, who was the transportation manager for the district, lived up the Colorado River Road. He came in and said, ‘It’s snowing so much I’m taking my kids home.”School closed down in the middle of the day, and has been open ever since.Why not a snow day?Keeping the school doors open no matter the weather is a source of almost constant irritation to Avon resident Betsy Edwards’ three kids. “It’s something they talk about all the time,” Edwards said. “It really is on the kids’ minds.”

The Edwards kids talk about snow days enough that it became an April Fool’s Day joke one year. “We told them it was a snow day,” Edwards said. “You kind of feel bad when they fall for one like that.”At the end of a recent school day at Battle Mountain, a handful of freshman might have fallen for the gag, too.”We need a snow day soooo bad,” freshman Elaine Prewitt said. “We need a day to snowboard here in Vail.”Sophomore Kori Landauer said perhaps temperature, and not snowfall should determine days off.”If the classrooms are too cold, we should be able to go home,” she said.Asked how he’d decide whether to call a snow day, freshman Bart Urba had a simple plan.”If it’s 12 inches or more, they should call it off,” he said.But it’s the High Country after all. People live where it snows.”Our plow system is awfully good,” Bluhm said. “I don’t know if snow days are necessarily needed.”

Staying open in SummitEagle County’s record of keeping the schools open is better even than Summit County’s, which also strives to keep the doors open.”We’ve had two days closed in the last five years,” Summit County School District Superintendent Millie Hamner said. But, Hamner added, safety is always considered. As bus drivers come in from as far away as Park County and Georgetown in the early mornings, they’re consulted about road conditions.”If the drivers are in, then we can go,” Hamner said. Other times, though, local police have asked the district to keep its buses off the road. “If I get a call like that, it makes the decision pretty easy,” Hamner said.Over Fremont Pass in Lake County, Superintendent Bette Bullock looks at the early morning weather a lot. Kids’ safety is the top concern, she said. But if Bullock ever has to pull the plug on a school day because of snow, she’ll do something no one else in the district’s history has done.”When I took this job six years ago, I was told, ‘Oh, by the way, there’s never been a snow day called in Lake County,'” Bullock said. “That’s been 110 or 115 years or so.”

==========================================By the numbers1: Times Battle Mountain High School has closed due to weather in the last 30 years.1: Times Eagle Valley High School has closed due to weather in the last 30 years.==========================================Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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