District 11 Reveals New Snow Day Plans for 2021-22 School Year


Lorie Shaull

Much of Colorado Springs has not seen snow yet this year, but the first snow occurred on September 30 last year.

Colorado Springs School District 11 approaches fall break with no days taken off due to inclement weather, despite calling a day off as early as September 30th in the 2020-21 school year due to snow. No matter when first snow appears, District 11 schools are prepared with new plans to accommodate unpredictable weather conditions.

“I want to assure you the safety of our students, staff, and families is top of mind when we make the difficult decisions about school closings, e-learning days, early safety dismissals, and delayed safety starts,” wrote Superintendent Dr. Micheal Thomas in a letter to District 11 families, “Sudden weather changes are part of what we expect in Colorado.”

Closure Types
There are three types of inclement weather closures that will take place: full closure, remote learning, and two-hour delays. Full closures are what many families know as “Snow Days,” in which all District 11 facilities will be closed and there will be no expectation of work or learning.

Remote learning days will resemble the 2020-21 school year format. All D11 staff and students will log in and work remotely. 20% of the school day will encompass live instruction via WebEx or Teams. At Doherty High School, students will be expected to meet for the first 20 minutes of class. Whatever block classes would typically occur on that day will occur. Afterward, students will have access to teachers for help during the duration of the rest of the period.

Two-hour delays will function as normal, only two hours later than normal. Morning preschool programs will not occur and busses will pick up exactly two hours later than normal.

The Colorado Department of Education allows up to five remote learning days per year that are unrelated to COVID-19. After those 5 days are used, the District will switch to full closures and asynchronous learning days.

Inclement Weather Reporting
The night before an anticipated storm, supervisory personnel drive sections of the district and report on weather and road conditions, visibility, traction wind chill factors, snow accumulation, and other hazardous street conditions. The Superintendent is periodically briefed on conditions. Employee testimonies and reports from the Colorado Springs Street division are factored into the decision. Parents will be notified by 5:30 AM the next morning

Parents, students, and staff can find updates about inclement weather closures on the District website, the District Twitter feed, and local television stations, such as KRDO, KXRM, KOAA, and KKTV. District community members can also receive direct alerts via D11 Loop emails and the District text messaging system.

Parent Alternatives

“Please remember: You as a parent make the final decision concerning the safety of your child. If you think conditions are unsafe when the District keeps schools open, you may keep your child at home. Remember to follow the proper absence reporting procedures by calling your child’s school to report the absence, and your child’s absence will be excused; all work may be made up without penalty,” Dr. Thomas said.

However, Hillary Hienton, Assistant Principal at Doherty High School, said, “Students won’t be marked truant, so there’s not a penalty for that, but they’re still responsible for the work they missed during that day.” Per district policy, students are given extensions to make up any missed work in their classes amounting to the number of days excused.

To Some, Snow Days Meant Mental Health Days

In a poll on The Spartan’s Instagram account, students unanimously voted in favor of preserving traditional “Snow Days” over remote learning days, and all but one respondent reported preferring asynchronous learning days to synchronous days.

“If we have terrible weather and the district cancels school, the need to keep learning is important, but those days can also be challenging on other family members who don’t have the opportunity to remain safe at home,” explained Doherty High School English teacher, Gina Turner, “Students and teachers need a mental health day now and then and what is better than a snowy day?”

Assistant Principal Hienton says she believes remote learning days will be more flexible than a traditional day, which will allow students more flexibility. “But in my opinion, that idea of having that surprise day off has evaporated,” Hienton said.