Snow brings collisions and confusion for area schools – photo gallery included |

Snow brings collisions and confusion for area schools – photo gallery included

The snow storm that draped Nevada County in billowing white, Friday morning, left parents of several high school students angry and flustered.

Many of them, like Dawn Austin, parent of a Nevada Union High School freshman, felt the school district could have declared a snow day earlier in the morning and prevented students from venturing into the hazardous roads.

“They knew (Thursday) that they were expecting low snow levels; it was forecasted in the news,” Austin said. “They expected the snow over night, but it didn’t come until morning. The storm couldn’t have disappeared. Based on the forecast and the low snow levels and the fact there was a snow day (Thursday), they could have called a snow day rather than put kids out on the road with potentially dangerous road conditions.”

“It was crazy,” Susan Couture, mother of a Nevada Union sophomore, said about her experience reaching her daughter to school. “There were cars everywhere. They were stuck, they were sliding everywhere. One lady slammed on her brakes and slid right into me. She turned out to be a substitute meant to teach at Nevada Union.”

Jim Henry, operations supervisor at Durham School Services, the Grass Valley-based school bus company, confirmed that one bus slid off the road on Ridge Road while trying to get to school. No one was hurt in the incident.

The superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District, Maggie Deetz declared a snow day around 10 a.m. That led to a second round of school buses heading to campus and transporting children back home. And students who drove to school were told to contact someone to take them home, unless they had snow chains, tires, or were driving a four-wheel drive vehicle.

There is a certain procedure that’s followed before a snow day is declared, according to Deetz. She speaks first with the Durham School Services around 5 a.m. Then, depending on the weather conditions and the California Highway Patrol’s update on the road conditions, she makes the decision.

“(Friday) morning at five, it was raining,” Deetz said. “Durham said our buses are ready to go, so we let them go. It didn’t start to snow an hour or an hour and a half later. All elementaries have the luxury of waiting for a few hours to see what the weather turns out to be. We have to look at the weather predictions and the radar, and anyone who lives in Nevada County knows that’s not what how it always turns out. So we do our best guess and go with it.”

The decisions for elementary schools and middle schools are made by the superintendents of the respective school districts, according to Terry McAteer, superintendent at the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office.

“They are (having) full schools in Pleasant Valley, Ready Springs, and Pleasant Ridge School Districts,” McAteer said Friday.

“With quickly changing weather, you’re always going to have the predicament of making your best guess,” Deetz said. “I got angry calls from parents. That’s fine. They are parents; they are concerned. The worst part of (a snow) day is I am also concerned about the safety of our students.”

Deetz refuted the common parental allegation that schools hesitate to declare a snow day because they don’t want to lose the state student funding that depends on attendance. She said that two snows days are reserved anyway in a school calendar.

“This decision is never made on based on getting our pay for the day,” she asserted. “That’s never a factor in the decision.”

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