Steamboat Springs Bill and Jamie Paley walked into their children's New Jersey public school last fall with an unusual request.
Even more unusual was the response.
"We told them the kids would be leaving for awhile," Bill Paley said.
"You mean for a week," was the school administrator's response.
"No, like six months," Bill Paley said.
"Their response was something like, 'Uh-huh ...,'" he said. "We were surprised by how supportive they were."
In the end, the New Jersey school district was happy to oblige, as have numerous other districts both inside and outside Colorado.
The Paleys are one of several nonlocal families with children who split the school year, spending winters in Steamboat Springs to participate in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Such "split location" families rely on a cooperative effort between their home school districts and the Steamboat Springs School District to make the effort possible.
"I was impressed that the public schools wanted to do what was best for the children and the family," Bill Paley said. "I expected it to be a much more difficult, bureaucratic process."
But school districts don't have much of a say in the matter, considering their obligation to provide public education to families who move into their area. Either way, families such as the Paleys say school districts have been more than willing to make the split-location method work for families dedicated to the highly regarded Winter Sports Club.
"From our perspective, it's really no different than any family that moves here during the year," Steamboat Superintendent Cyndy Simms said, although the district prefers the students to enroll by Oct. 1 of each year in order for the district to receive per-pupil funding.
Student s who move here without their families and aren't under the legal guardianship of a local host family are charged tuition, Simms said.
Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop has become accustomed to split-location students; the middle school had at least three such students this year.
"You just accept people; that's what's so nice about public schools," Bishop said.
Split-location students who have attended the middle school tend to be gifted academically as well as athletically, helping to ease the potential hardships caused by differing curriculum between school districts, Bishop said
His only concern is that some of these students are under tremendous pressure to perform on the slopes as well as in the classroom.
The Paleys insist their children have the final say in their desire to continue skiing and, therefore, how long the family will continue to split time between New Jersey and Colorado.
Beth Brown, whose daughter Vikki splits time between Mountain Ridge Middle School in Highlands Ranch and Steamboat Springs Middle School, says the same.
"We never, ever, want our kids to feel they have to ski," Brown said. "There are so many kids skiing for all the wrong reasons. We want them to ski for all the right reasons."
The Browns know the split-location system well. Several years ago, Jeff Brown, Beth and Rick Brown's only son, began splitting time between Douglas County's ThunderRidge High School and Steamboat Springs High School.
Before the move to Steamboat, Beth drove Jeff to ski training and competitions in Summit County every weekend.
"Once you get to that high school level and you're competing against kids who ski five or six times a week, it's tough to compete," she said.
The Browns knew Winter Sports Club was a premier training program, but it was the Steamboat community that convinced them to purchase a home here four years ago.
"We fell in love with the town of Steamboat," Beth Brown said. "We couldn't be happier."
And like the Paleys, the Browns found Steamboat schools to be more than accommodating.
"They are great," Brown said. "I can't say enough good things about them."
The same goes for Douglas County schools.
"They were very cooperative. That (cooperation) really opened the door for us to come to Steamboat," Brown said. "They are just excited that they have somebody who has something they want to do that's bigger than (what the school can provide)."
Vikki loves Steamboat and has enthusiastically adjusted to changing schools three times each year, her mother said.
"I'm going to have twice as many friends," Vikki told her mom when she first learned she'd be attending school in Steamboat as well as Highlands Ranch.
"She just went into it with that attitude," Beth Brown said.
The move wasn't as easy for Lorin Paley, who recently returned to New Jersey with her family after two quarters at Strawberry Park Elementary School.
"It was hard, but it's getting better," Lorin said. "Back in New Jersey, the principal is mean, but here everyone calls (the principal) Dr. D. It's just different."
Adjusting was much easier for Lorin's older brother, Ben.
"I have a lot of friends in each place," Ben said.
Bill Paley said he worries about the changing curriculum his children deal with between the school systems.
"I think it's going to come down to how much the kids want to do ski racing," he said.
But for now, the family is happy with the townhome they purchased here and the community they now call home -- at least for half the year.
"This is really a town and a community," Paley said. "It's exceeded our expectations. Next year, the question is if we come in September."