snow 031319
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Snow blows off of Woodmen Rd. in Colorado Springs, Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)

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All 17 public school districts in the Pikes Peak region canceled classes Wednesday, but started getting word out of the ever-popular "snow day" as early as Tuesday morning.

With weather indicators aligning like stars to spell out “blizzard,” district leaders took heed.

School District 49, the area’s third-largest district covering Falcon, Peyton, Black Forest and other locales east and north of Colorado Springs, was one of the first to send the alert, by 11 a.m. Tuesday.

“We’ve paid attention to community feedback over the years, and the early notification seems to be something our families value,” said D-49 spokesman David Nancarrow.

D-49 also was among the first to announce Wednesday that classes again will be canceled on Thursday. Woodland Park School District RE-2 also sent out an early-afternoon message that schools will be closed Thursday.

Nearly all the rest also are closed Thursday: Colorado Springs D-11, Peyton JT-23, Edison 54-JT, Cripple Creek-Victor RE-1, Academy D-20, Manitou Springs D-14, Miami-Yoder JT-60, Cheyenne Mountain D-12, Ellicott D-22, Lewis-Palmer D-38, Harrison D-2, Fountain-Fort Carson D-8, Widefield D-3 Hanover D-28 and Calhan RJ-1.

Forecasts from the National Weather Service, television meteorologists, the Colorado Springs street division and the Colorado Department of Transportation proved to be correct.

Blizzard conditions arrived as predicted mid-morning Wednesday and continued throughout the day, with some road closures and edicts for residents to stay home.

The timing of the storm was one factor Colorado Springs School District 11 took into consideration before declaring Tuesday afternoon that schools would be closed the next day, said spokeswoman Devra Ashby.

“We knew we could get people to school safely in the morning, but the conditions could put students, parents and staff in jeopardy in the afternoon,” she said.

D-11 officials started talking about what to do about the storm at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Ashby said. They didn’t like the idea of an early release on Wednesday, she said, because it would inconvenience parents and disrupt schedules.

The biggest influence for D-11 was predicted wind gusts of up to 70 or 80 miles per hour, she said. When the Colorado Department of Transportation said high-profile vehicles would be prohibited on highways due to expected high winds, Ashby said that was the clincher.

“We can’t drive our buses on the highways then,” she said.

Superintendents, transportation directors and public information officers from local districts often consult with each other about weather-related school closures, Ashby said, as they did on Tuesday. And they all came to the same conclusion: for everyone's safety, it was best to not open Wednesday, and some again on Thursday.

Spring break starts Monday for District 49 and the following week for other local districts. Even with this winter’s snowy conditions, Nancarrow said D-49 is not close to expending all its snow days.

“We have an adequate buffer,” he said.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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