School district outlines policy for winter weather conditions |

School district outlines policy for winter weather conditions

Ben McCanna
Second-grader Tressa Otis hits the swings during recess Thursday at Ridgeview Elementary School. Earlier this week, students throughout the Moffat County School District had to spend recess indoors due to cold weather. District policy states students must remain indoors when temperatures are 10 degrees or less.
Ben McCanna

Just before noon Thursday, the Ridgeview Elementary School west doors flung open and an energetic pack of students poured out.

The second- and third-grade students ran toward the school’s playground, specifically the swing set and jungle gym, for recess.

Second-grader Jeremy Pritchard, however, had his own plans. He stood atop a labyrinthine snow fort dug into a snow bank.

Pritchard struck a fighting pose under a bluebird sky.

“We’re playing Power Rangers,” he said.

Thursday’s outing represented a reversal of fortune for elementary children throughout the Moffat County School District. Because of winter conditions, recess the three previous days was indoors.

“The beginning of the week was pretty darn cold,” said Joe Petrone, Moffat County School District superintendent.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures during recess Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were a frigid 2 degrees, 2 degrees, and 9 degrees, respectively.

Petrone said there’s a simple benchmark for deciding whether recess will be inside or outside.

At 10 degrees or lower, recess moves indoors, he said. However, the superintendent added that students can also be moved indoors if other weather factors are at play.

“It could be 11 degrees, but if the wind is crisp and biting, the principal can make a decision,” he said.

Ridgeview Elementary Principal Julie Baker said it’s sometimes a tough decision to make.

“I think they feel cooped up,” Baker said of students having indoor recess. “They need that time outside. They need fresh air and to run around.”

Karra Juergens, a health tech at Ridgeview, said time outdoors is an important component of learning.

“I think kids focus better when they get that fresh air,” Juergens said. “Even the sunlight helps a lot.”

Pritchard, however, said he prefers indoor recess. His reason is simple.

“I do not like to be out in the cold,” he said.

During indoor recess at Ridgeview, students play in the gymnasium or play board games in the classroom, Baker said.

Aside from having recess inside, Petrone said weather rarely has an effect on the school schedule. For instance, Petrone does not know of any instance when cold temperatures have caused school to be cancelled.

“We’ve had 63 below zero before and we’ve had school,” he said. “Our expectation is school as usual. There’s no below zero temperature that results in an automatic cancellation.”

However, if cold weather coincides with a power outage, Petrone said the administration would consider school closures on a case-by-case basis.

“If we lose heat, then it’s a judgment call,” he said.

During a power outage Monday in Craig, Petrone decided to move preschool students from the school district administration building on Yampa Avenue to East Elementary School.

“With our preschool students, they’re closer to the ground, as you know,” the superintendent said. “And our building here got quite cold quickly the other day when we lost power. So, we moved the children from here to East because they had power and heat.”

Like cold temperatures, Petrone said snow accumulation rarely impacts the school schedule.

The show must go on, he said.

“You know, being from Western Wyoming and spending much of my career in public schools there, I’ve been involved in very few (snow closures),” Petrone said. “… I think in this community, there have been very few — if any — in the last three decades.”

Petrone attributed the lack of snow closures to prompt snow removal and Western sprit.

“We’re a hearty group of people in this part of the world,” he said.

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