Our View: Cunningham made the right call
February 9, 2011
Steamboat Springs — We like to think of ourselves as a hardy lot here in Routt County, and it's often deserved. We're buried under snow for half of each year, and it never stops us from going about our daily business. In fact, many of us are crazy enough to actually seek out the elements in a quest to satisfy our collective thrill-seeking itches.
We scoff at news reports from other cities and states where the lightest snow grinds life to a halt and where folks stock up on provisions as if nuclear holocaust was afoot. Wimps, we think to ourselves.
And then last week, for the first time in more than two decades, the Steamboat Springs School District canceled school for a weather-related reason. It wasn't snow that earned kids and teachers — and some working parents — an unexpected day off; it was the brutally cold weather that gripped our county for a two-day stretch.
School district policy states that school be canceled if the temperature dips to minus 40 degrees. Early Wednesday morning, Superintendent Shalee Cunningham received a phone call from the district's lead custodian, who reported that multiple thermometers indicated that the temperature had reached that threshold. Cunningham made the immediate call to cancel classes for the day. It was the right decision.
Never mind that diesel fuel gels at 40 below zero, making it difficult to get buses up and running. Temperatures that low are downright dangerous, particularly for children. Exposure to those conditions for even a short time can quickly lead to frostbite and other cold-weather maladies. There was simply no reason for children to be standing outside waiting for buses in those conditions.
The Hayden and South Routt school districts did not cancel classes Wednesday. Neither district reported any issues with bus operations or children exposed to the elements. Thank goodness for that.
For those who may be critical of Cunningham and the Steamboat public school system for shutting down for a day, we wonder what their reaction would be had the schools remained open and had just one of the district's 2,200 students been harmed as a result of the weather.
The intent was to protect the kids, and for that we applaud Cunningham. The more challenging question is whether to amend the district's policy to allow closure for temperatures as balmy as minus 30 or minus 35 degrees. We'll leave it to medical experts to decide at what temperature it's relatively safe for kids to wait outside for the bus.