Snow Days - Cold Days - Rain Days - Why are the schools closed?

My term on the Stafford County School Board officially began on January 1.  Since Jan. 1 schools have been closed three days and have had one day with a 2 hour delay due to weather.   I have received a number of emails, Facebook messages and phone calls asking about the school closures.  The opinions expressed have been broad.  Some have agreed with every call for closure, while others are not happy with the number of weather related closures we have had.

It is important to understand how the decision to close schools or initiate a delayed opening is made.   Members of the School Board have no input on the decision.   The decision is made collectively by the Superintendent, county administration and public safety officials.  Outside organizations such as VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) may be consulted as well.   The most important input comes from public safety.  They are the best judge of how safe the roads are or what conditions could be with pending forecasts.   Safety of the children is paramount.

There is also a desire to provide as much notice as possible so parents can make appropriate arrangements for child care if 9117454-large.jpegschools do need to be closed.  When all news outlets are predicting severe weather those responsible for the decision to close schools will discuss the situation and make the call.  For better or worse we do live in an area in which the weather changes rapidly and the weather predictions can sometimes be wrong.  Unfortunately, from time to time a call to close schools based on weather reports results in schools being closed on a day with little or no bad weather. 

The closures over the last two weeks have been questioned by some and praised by others.   Earlier this week it was decided to close schools due to severe cold.  Those of us who grew up in more northern parts of the country, where sub-freezing and single digit temperatures are the norm in the winter months, shook our heads in disbelief that schools would close due to it being cold.   Fortunately it was the right decision to close that day.  With the severe cold and rapid drop in temperature there could have been many buses out of service and wait times at bus stops could have been much longer than normal for many kids.  Considering we rarely see temperatures in the single digits in Stafford County many kids could have been at the bus stops severely under-dressed for conditions.   I also spoke with a couple of principals on that day and they reported their schools were very cold and they were glad the kids did not have to be in the schools that day.  The mechanicals in the schools were struggling to keep up with the very rapid drop in temperature.

Today schools were again closed due to weather.   Overnight the precipitation was rain and freezing rain with temperatures right around the freezing mark.  While we had hoped we would only need to delay schools for two hours it was ultimately decided temperatures would not rise as quickly as we had hoped and many roads still had ice patches late into the morning.  While many parents went to work and saw that it was only raining, many questioned if we were really closing schools just because of rain.   That was not the case, as public safety had reported several traffic incidents (from an email from school administration: a total of 17 accidents were reported between 6-7:20 a.m. All accidents were caused by ice on roads. Temperatures stayed at freezing until 0810. Two roads were completely closed down until 0845) in some of the more rural roads of the county and there was ice on many of the roads.   In Fauquier County the school system decided not to close schools today and they had a bus slide off the road.  The Superintendent in Fauquier says he made the wrong call on schools this morning

While we all want to make the right decision all of the time, with weather there is an element of prediction.  The most important thing to remember the decision is always based on how to keep the kids as safe as possible.  

There have also been many people who have asked how many snow days we have built into the school year schedule and how many days do we have left.  As of right now we have 2.19 days left in our banked “snow days”.   If we use the remaining time the school system can use scheduled holiday days to make up for time missed in excess of our banked time.   If necessary the school system may also make adjustments to school day schedules to make up time.   

Let’s hope Mother Nature takes it easy on us and we have an early Spring!

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@scotthirons tweeted this page. 2014-01-10 13:19:37 -0500
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Scott Hirons, Stafford County School Board - Falmouth District posted about Snow Days - Cold Days - Rain Days - Why are the schools closed? on Scott Hirons, Stafford County School Board - Falmouth District's Facebook page 2014-01-10 13:19:37 -0500
Snow Days - Cold Days - Rain Days - Why are the schools closed?

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