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How Does the District Determine a Snow Day? #KnowTheFacts

Living in a resort community has unique challenges. As parents of school-aged kids, we know the elusive district snow day is one of them. For some, snow days are an exhilarating opportunity to sneak in a powder day. For others, it is a terrifying juggling act to find a place for your kids while you honor your existing commitments. Regardless of how you feel about them, ASD would like to help you understand the process and team behind the decision.


It is our pleasure to introduce the man that drives (pardon the pun) these decisions, ASD Transportation Director Gary Vavra.   Gary came to the Aspen School District in June 2015. He has over 45 years of transportation experience and is passionate about safety, efficiency and sustainability. Mr. Vavra is also responsible for jump-starting programs to improve the quality of the air inside the bus, outside the bus and reducing fuel and energy expenses. Knowing the short-term impact Gary has made within the district, it is no surprise that he begins watching weather patterns four days in advance.   His tool belt includes the CDOT weather app, national radar, local forecasts, road reports and a team of city and county transportation resources.

 Aspen Snow Day

If a storm is forecast, he begins alerting the Aspen School District snow team two or three days ahead of time. On the morning of the potential storm, Gary wakes at 2:00am. He reviews snowfall, temperature, wind-chill, ice and road conditions in key areas around the county. Not only is he concerned about transporting the children safely to school inside the bus, he is thoughtful about our children waiting too long at the bus stop in threatening conditions.


If a delayed start or snow day is a possibility, Gary will text the Aspen School District plow team to report to school by 4:30 am. He then exchanges information with the Pitkin County and City of Aspen plow teams. Next, Gary will personally drive two of the most difficult roads sections in a two-wheel drive vehicle to obtain firsthand experience with the conditions. Not surprisingly, these sections are the W/J hill and Castle Creek Road.


After gathering information from all of these sources and as well as his team’s personal experience on the drive in, Gary has a phone conversation with Dr. Maloy, the District Superintendent. By 5:15am, Gary and Dr. Maloy have discussed the transportation findings and together decide what is best for the district and ultimately the children of our district. If a delay is determined, Dr. Maloy will initiate the snow emergency phone tree and contact five people: the Assistant School Superintendent, three school principals and the ASD Director of Technology.   By 5:45am, the district website and social media channels will have been updated and a district wide email will have been initiated. Is it safe to say that ASD is not having a SNOW day if these channels do not reflect that decision by 6:00am? Yes.


Surprisingly, Gary does not find this process stressful. With years of experience, a great team and a clear safety directive, he says “it’s all part of the job”. We can sleep well knowing that the snow team is not.