Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Academy delays, then calls off classes

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 2:57 PM

click to enlarge Cadets march on the terrazzo at the Air Force Academy. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Cadets march on the terrazzo at the Air Force Academy.

The past 36 hours have been pretty hairy, as we used to say back in the day, due to heavy snow accumulations. We had 15 inches at my house as of this morning at 6:30 a.m.

In fact, we had a foot of snow as of 5 p.m. on Monday.

Schools throughout the region cancelled classes early Monday and some decided on Monday night to stay closed on Tuesday. By 6 a.m., most schools were announcing another snow day via all the major TV networks.

But at the Air Force Academy, where military leaders of tomorrow are trained by top notch strategists, the decision to call off classes wasn't made until about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday and no notice was given to staff and faculty until 8:07 a.m. Tuesday. Text messages followed.

Several staff members say they felt they were unnecessarily put at risk driving down from Denver, or across the north part of town where snow depths were the greatest and roads the most hazardous.

So we asked the academy about it. At first, we were told that procedure calls for a 10th Airbase Wing Leadership Team and academy leadership to meet at 3:45 a.m. to decide on cancellation.

Instead, that meeting took place at 5 p.m. on Monday when the leaders decided to go ahead and hold classes, with a two-hour delay, despite all weather reports calling for additional accumulations overnight. In fact, the academy has its own weather station and meteorology department

The two-hour delay meant that staff had to be in place ready to roll at 8:45 to 9 a.m. So, as mentioned before, several that we know of struck out into the wilds of a Colorado snow storm in order to make it there on time, not knowing of the 7:30 a.m. "reassessment" meeting that resulted in a cancellation notice after 8 a.m.

While we were interviewing Brus Vidal, public affairs honcho at the academy, about the academy's brilliant decision and magnificent timing of notification to its staff, he noted that staff can always call their supervisors if they feel endangered and have a discussion about whether they need to report to work.

But he insisted that the 8:07 a.m. notification was adequate. Then he digressed into the topic of all the other people in the city who were made to report to work today. He specifically cited the Independent, which opened its doors today as usual at 8:30 a.m., as having put its workers in danger. "Is it really worth [it] to put you at risk so the paper can publish on time?" (My response was that it's one thing to expect to have to go to work and make plans accordingly. It's another to make all those plans and carry them out only to be told that work has been canceled once you get there.)

He also lashed out at businesses, including banks, fast-food restaurants and the like, saying, "You've got to make it to work for your minimum wage job. Now you're putting minimum wage employees at risk because you have to make money."

We won't pass judgment like he did on businesses who expect workers to show up regardless of the dangers of severe weather. But is it too much to expect those who might have the power of a deadly missile at their fingertips to exercise sound judgment when the evidence is swirling all around you?

Some don't think so. 

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