Gusting winds and heavy snow closed schools in the South Routt School District on Wednesday for the first time in years.
Superintendent Kelly Reed said he made the decision at about 6:15 a.m. Wednesday after looking at weather reports and receiving calls from people in different parts of South Routt County, who warned that roads were impassable.
"Our No. 1 concern is the safety of our students and faculty," Reed said. "Based on State Patrol reports, eyewitness accounts and conditions in the early-morning hours, I felt closing the schools was in the best interest of all concerned."
South Routt School Board President Tim Corrigan agreed: "I completely support the decision to close the schools. Although I did not participate in the decision, had I been asked, I would have highly recommended it."
Corrigan got a look at the weather during an early-morning drive from his home in Yampa to work in Steamboat Springs.
"I had one of my worst driving experiences ever in Routt County," said Corrigan, who has lived in South Routt since 1983 and said he left Yampa at about 6 a.m. "The roads were certainly too dangerous for school buses to be on, or for children to be standing next to the highway.
"It was extremely windy and snowing heavily," he said. "It took me 40 minutes to drive from Yampa to Oak Creek, and I would have turned around if I could have."
The drive to Oak Creek usually takes 10 minutes, Corrigan said. He stopped in Oak Creek for an hour to wait for the winds to subside. "And I consider myself a very brave driver," he said.
Oak Creek resident Wendy Villa said she would not have let her children get on a bus Wednesday regardless of whether the schools were closed.
"The wind was blowing so hard I could not see across the street," said Villa, who has twin daughters in first grade at South Routt Elementary School in Yampa. "It was not worth the safety of my children to let them go to school. I was very pleased that Kelly closed the schools."
Corrigan said he has had children attending district schools continuously since moving to South Routt, and he could recall only one or two school closings because of severe weather.
"There was one about seven or eight years ago, and I vaguely recall one about 20 years ago because of extremely cold weather," he said. "South Routt is very proud of its history of not closing, so we don't take this decision lightly."
Wednesday's weather left no doubt, Villa said. "I can't believe that anyone would question this decision," she said.
Students attend South Routt schools from as far away as McCoy, south of Toponas on the border of Eagle County.
"That's a long way to go on bad roads," Reed said, adding that visibility was near zero in some areas of South Routt.
Despite clearing skies Wed--nesday, Reed said he heard no complaints about his decision.
"The only feedback I've received thus far has been positive," he said. "With as beautiful as (the weather) turned out, you tend to second-guess yourself, but until 10 o'clock in the morning, conditions were not tenable for a safe journey to school -- and I did not want kids on the roads in unsafe conditions."
Reed said extra time is built into the school year to allow for emergency days, and the district will incur no extra costs because of the closure.
-- To reach Mike Lawrence call 871-4203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org