School | Newsandamp;Notes Let it snow! Snow days are early days for school district
December 9, 2008
When Sierra snowflakes start falling, Nanette Rondeau makes a flurry of phone calls to key agencies as part of the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School Districts snow day evaluation process.As the districts transportation director in charge of making snow closure recommendations to the superintendent, Rondeau doesnt get piles of sleep during winter storm periods. The safe transport of some 2,000 students is not a decision the district takes lightly.Depending on the storm, I start evaluating at 2 a.m., and by 5 a.m. we determine whether we can or cannot get the students to and from all the school sites safely, Rondeau says.Rondeau speaks with a myriad of critical agencies including Cal Trans, California Highway Patrol, Town of Truckee and Placer, Nevada and El Dorado counties. She queries these agencies about existing and anticipated road conditions. In turn, the agency representatives will appraise the district if they are low on snow removal crew members, if one or more of the plows are in disrepair or if a big rig accident has closed down the highway. All of these factors figure into the evaluation, Rondeau says, adding that a pre-recorded Ed Connect telephone message is dispatched to all district families at approximately 6 a.m. regarding a snow-day closure.Superintendent Steve Jennings underscores safety is a major concern to the district.This includes safety for students and staff, Jennings says. There are instances where roads may be passable in Truckee but not on the lake side. Since we have staff and students who work or go to school in Truckee and live on the north shore, there are times when we will cancel schools even though the public might feel the conditions in their area do not warrant it.Weather forecasting is also part of Rondeaus evaluation. After five years on the job Rondeau has the private line to the chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Reno.He can break down how many inches per hour are expected, the predicted temperature, wind and visibility, Rondeau says, adding that extremely low temperatures can negatively impact the school buses, causing equipment failure including fuel problems.When asked if she could recall the most challenging period of snow day forecasting, Rondeau did not hesitate.Our most stressful snow day forecast was Jan. 28, 2008, Rondeau answers quickly. We called a delayed start and we should have called a snow day. It was a tough day to call because the weather forecast stated it would stop snowing in the early a.m. and it continued to snow all day!In some cases, the school district may opt for a late start. If so, all schools will be in session with a delayed start of two hours. All bus stop pickups will be delayed by two hours. Schools will dismiss at the normal time.
According to the district Web site, though it may have snowed the previous evening, and weather forecasts may be calling for severe weather, the decision to call off school is not made until approximately 5 a.m. after a careful analysis of current road and weather conditions. For updated snow day info, call 582-2510 or 581-7020. Or visit http://www.ttusd.org.