Utah County students had the first snow day in their lifetimes on Monday.
School was canceled for more than 100,000 students in the Alpine, Nebo and Provo school districts Monday morning, signaling the first snow-related school cancelation for Utah County schools in decades.
“Snow days are rare calls, especially in Alpine School District,” said Kimberly Bird, a spokeswoman for the district.
Bird said the district thinks Monday was its first snow day since 1993 or 1994.
Nebo School District last had a snow day closure in December 2010, and the Provo City School District believes it has been decades since it called one.
The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City issued a hazardous weather outlook for the western two-thirds of the state, along with a winter storm warning that would be in place until 10 p.m. Monday.
Monday’s storm was anticipated to bring two to five inches of snow, with more along the benches and winds gusting at 40 mph.
The storm was expected to bring gusty winds and significant snow accumulation through the night. Snow was expected to be confined to the mountains and along the Interstate 15 corridor.
Cold temperatures are expected to stay through the middle of the week, with another storm bringing snow to northern Utah on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Alpine School District adopted a weather-related school closure policy late last year after the district came under fire earlier in the year for not declaring a snow day. The new policy allows the district to cancel school, release it early or declare a two-hour delay either district-wide or by high school clusters.
The policy states that Mondays would only have the option of a school closure due to students getting out early that day.
Bird said the district decided to cancel school district-wide due to safety. While students are located by cluster, Bird said the district’s employees come from across the Utah Valley.
“Even though students are our number one priority, so are our employees,” Bird said.
Bird said although the storm wasn’t as bad as expected, the district had to consider if they wanted to take a gamble and have buses potentially slide off the road.
“We feel confident, though, in the call,” she said. “We hope everyone understands the process.”
The district has a makeup day calendared into its schedule for the first day of spring break. Bird said the district’s superintendent might petition the state for an exemption to making up the day.
Weather can vary across the county, especially in the mountain benches.
In the Nebo School District, buses drive to high bench areas and canyons to pick up students.
“We have high bench areas that make it very difficult for our buses to pick up students safely,” said Lana Hiskey, a spokeswoman for the Nebo School District.
Hiskey said Nebo School District Superintendent Rick Nielsen personally began driving to each of the district’s high schools starting at 3 a.m. to look at conditions.
At 3 a.m., Hiskey said conditions didn’t look bad enough for a snow day. But at 5:30 a.m., conditions worsened, ice started forming and harsh winds began blowing.
“It is a hard thing to call,” she said.
Hiskey said the decision also factored in employee safety. The snow day will be made up on March 20.
Conditions were mostly dry in Provo Monday morning.
“The snow isn’t as bad in Provo as it was in other places, but the roads were still dangerous,” said Caleb Price, a spokesman for the Provo City School District.
The district began meeting about the weather conditions on Friday. District staff also met on Sunday night and early Monday morning to discuss conditions.
Price said the district also checked in with the Alpine and Nebo school districts to see what decisions they were making.
Price said Provo is unique in that the citywide school district includes benches on its east side that can have vastly different weather than in the valley. Price said the district could not make the decision to only close school in half of the city.
The district did not know as of Monday morning when the make-up school day for Monday’s closure will be. Price said the district will announce the day once the decision is made.
Both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University remained open Monday.