Snow provides school holiday

Officials recall only two previous closures since the early '90s

Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2005

The same weather that kept children out of school Wednesday drove some of them indoors, though the ski slopes and sledding hills beckoned on a rare snow day.

Some children sledded at Twin Lakes or schussed at Eaglecrest Ski Area. Juneau-Douglas High School Principal John Norman joked he could take attendance at Eaglecrest.

But with continuing snow, sleet and cold, not many children were seen frolicking around town.

Juneau schools Superintendent Peggy Cowan said she would not decide until about 5 a.m. today whether to reopen the schools. Parents should listen for radio reports.

It's uncommon to close the Juneau schools because of snow, but not unheard of. Officials in the Juneau School District could recall two previous closures since the early 1990s, said Human Resources Director Patti Carlson.

The district didn't close schools Tuesday, the day after a storm dumped 2 to 212 feet of snow, because test runs of school buses early in the morning were successful.

Some parents complained Tuesday that children were waiting in the street for buses or were walking in the street.

"There had been concerns about students not having adequate walkways," said Ted Wilson, principal at Glacier Valley Elementary.

On Tuesday, freezing rain and more snow was predicted for Wednesday, and the city needed more time to plow sidewalks, Cowan said.

Snow and freezing drizzle are expected to continue today.

On Wednesday, schools had staff on hand to arrange rides home for students who didn't get the message about the closure.

JDHS kept the gyms open for sports teams to practice, Norman said.

Norman said final exams scheduled for Wednesday and today will be conducted today and Friday, if school is open.

Some students stopped by to get into their lockers to retrieve books so they could study.

"If a kid wants to study, I'm sure as heck not going to get in their way," Norman said.

Eaglecrest opened specially for the day, with some lifts running until 3 or 4 p.m. Even the red buses to the ski area were operating. The mountain had 29 inches of snow at the base and 98 inches at the top.

Shawn Wille was out sledding Wednesday morning at Twin Lakes with his 9-year-old daughter, Summer, and her friend, Tesla Cooper. He worked a few hours early in the morning at his state job, then took personal leave to care for the children.

There was a big berm near his Lemon Creek house, but Wille knew it was unsafe for children to play in berms.

Services restored

All city services will reopen today after most were closed Wednesday. State and city staff were busy plowing and unloading snow. City Manager Rod Swope said he would wait to see today's weather before deciding if it would be a full work day. The National Weather Service is forecasting snow and freezing drizzle in the morning and freezing rain in the afternoon. It issued a freezing rain warning for this afternoon and night.

Tesla, 812, said she would spend part of the day "sledding and going in to have hot chocolate, obviously. We'll dig tunnels."

At 10:45, Wille and the children were the first on scene at the sledding hill. He urged the girls to sled down the same route over and over to flatten a good sledding surface.

They were trying to paddle through deep snow and were quickly getting stuck. Summer tumbled off her sled and rolled down the hill herself.

"Tesla, this is the hill right here," Wille called out. "You got to hit it again and again. Then it will get fast."

Soon troops of children and adults arrived in threes and fours and established sledding routes. Adults counseled the little kids in basic sledding concepts, like facing the same way as the sled.

When Wille himself went down the hill, Tesla said, "Oh, Shawn, no. Now, this is called embarrassing."

The requisite black dog was on scene to nose everyone at the end of their run.

Tesla hit her stride on the now-groomed run. She went down the slope screaming, ground to a halt, looked uphill with a big smile on her reddened face, and chugged back up, obviously.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.



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