The Abominable Snow Day

After being pounded consistently with feet of snow this winter season, snow days, and snow removal are a topic on every local’s mind. And powder days of course! 

Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD) determined snow days affect schools from Truckee to North Tahoe, and everything in between. Many factors play into the decision making for snow days. All of which are fully up to TTUSD to decide. 

Preparations and precautionary measures to deal with all this snow are a huge topic for the Town of Truckee, TTUSD and locals in general. 

Communication between these agencies is constant. Sometimes, communication starts at night with a big storm in the forecast or the morning of. Often as early as three in the morning. 

Nanette Rondeau, the Director of Transportation at TTUSD manages all of the bus drivers and communicates with the Town of Truckee in order to ensure bus safety. Often, she communicates with Riley Morrison, the street maintenance Manager at the Town of Truckee.

At the beginning of the winter season, Rondeau, Morrison, and maintenance from both organizations have a meeting discussing everything that plays into snow days and clean up. “We started the communication early this winter with that kickoff meeting,” said Morrison.

“The night before a weather event, I watch the high amount of snow that has fallen. I send out communication to the Road Supervisor to the Town of Truckee, the Road Supervisor of Placer County and also the CalTrans supervisor,” said Rondeau.

On the Town of Truckee’s side, there are people constantly checking road conditions. Morrison said, “We have the night street supervisor, the guy that we put on the list for Nanette to call at four am. He is out there all night. He has the best idea of the condition of the streets in Truckee.”

This person supervises all of the snow removal activity that happens at night. Additionally, he looks at bus routes and major roadways. 

Similar to many institutions in Truckee, staffing has become an ongoing issue. Morrison comments on the state of the Town of Truckee and staffing. “The last three years have been more challenging to find seasonal employees and operators. We are in that same environment. So this winter we have been running six operators short. We are working so hard. Just a hitch slower.” 

“We have a core group of full time year round employees. They maintain the roads. They do road patching and re-striping the roads in the summertime, as well as fixing the potholes. In the wintertime, they transition into snow removal. We hire about 18 seasonal snow removal operators.” said Morrison. 

These people have worked for more than three weeks straight without a break. With the clear weather in the forecast, they are looking to take days off and get some much needed and deserved rest. 

With low staffing testing employees, workers have been putting in extra hours and doing a larger amount of work to make up for it. That is the problem, some neighborhoods get more snow than forecasted. And, under forecasting is a growing problem that families are feeling the effects of. “I make it a habit to drive to some of those neighborhoods between 5 and 6 am,” Rondeau said. 

Staffing may just be at the root of many problems in the community.

The snow day discussion is a huge deal in the Truckee Tahoe area. Roads, snow removal, ice, drivability and about a million other factors play into snow day decisions. 

In December, TTUSD announced that they would start to use a two hour delayed start to deal with some weather situations; however, the delayed starts have not been utilized thus far. When the road conditions are not up to standard for safety, but there is no delayed start, students and community members become aggravated. “Should I do a two hour late start? And [the Town] said ‘no’ because two hours won’t make a difference. Things happen overnight that are out of our control,” Rondeau said. 

On Wednesday, January 11th, Rondeau had to call Prosser families notifying them that the bus was unable to make it to the neighborhood. With feet of snow covering a thick layer of ice, the bus could not safely make the stops. Rondeau starts, “We can’t call a snow day if one neighborhood isn’t plowed. If the others are fine, then I just can’t.” Each decision is highly calculated and thought through. “When I have to reach out to families with a change, it makes me very concerned and disappointed. I am not going to put a bus and kids out in harm’s way,” Rondeau said. 

In every situation, there is going to be an unhappy person. The decisions of the district are not to inconvenience the community, they are simply working to ensure bus and student safety. Additionally, Morrison said, “We make sure the main roads and bus routes are always driveable.”

Morrison ends by saying, “I have done this job for close to 20 years and I have seen some big winters, and this one is pretty good.” The entirety of the winter season’s intensity has been heightened with the decrease in staffing and the monumental amount of snowfall.