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Posted at 5:13 PM ET, 02/ 9/2010

MoCo schools hope to open next Tuesday

By Valerie Strauss

Even as Loudoun County public school officials were deciding yesterday to close schools for the rest of the week, their counterparts in Montgomery County were holding out hope that the storm predicted for today and tomorrow might veer away from the region. No such luck.

That’s why Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry Weast bowed to reality today and decided to close schools for the rest of the week on the recommendation of his chief operating officer, Larry Bowers, who assessed the state of the roads and the school buildings, district spokesman Dana Tofig said.

Because Monday is President’s Day, the earliest kids will be back in school is a week from today--and even that depends on whether the bad weather is over.

“If Mother Nature cooperates, and if after tomorrow we don’t get another drop of snow, I feel pretty good that we can open on Tuesday,” Tofig said. "But Mr. Bowers will keep evaluating that over the weekend.”

Bowers collected a lot of information from staff sent out to the schools to start cleaning up and assessing the situation, as well as folks who were on the roads that lead up to schools.

Many county schools are located in residential neighbrhoods, and some of the roads there are at best iffy, Tofig said.

And, as Loudoun officials noted, it is one thing to push snow around in a parking lot to see pavement, but it is another entirely to remove the snow from the premises. Curbs where buses pull up and sidewalks on which kids walk remain snow-covered in many areas.

Officials in some other districts were reluctant early today to concede that the rest of the school week will be snowed out by the latest storm, although it almost certainly will.

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy is writing a daily letter to parents on the district's website. Today’s said that despite the wishes and dedicated work of crews trying to clean up the snow, “the weather continues to impede our efforts.”

“For now, no decisions have been made about tomorrow or the remainder of the week. Until we see the actual impact of the approaching storm, we can’t make a decision about school operations, but we need to be prepared for the possibility of an extended disruption of school.”

As of 4:15 p.m. today, no decision had been made. (Update: A short time later, schools were closed for Wednesday in Arlington but there was no word on the rest of the week.)

Meanwhile, more teachers are trying to give work to students via computer.

In Fairfax County, according to school district spokesman Paul Regnier said, “most teachers” use Blackboard sites to stay in touch with public school students concerning academic assignments and learning.

"Students who access their teachers' Blackboard sites have plenty of work to do. The FCPS Online Campus continues without interruption. One student I am aware of has his pre-calculus/trigonometry class live on-line tonight as scheduled, at 7 p.m.,” Regnier wrote in an email.

But, apparently, no school district has a system-wide plan to keep learning on track in an extraordinary event like these back-to-back snow storms.

It seems fair to ask why not, given that today’s world presents a list of events that could force schools to be closed for some time, including a flu pandemic or a terrorist attack.

Some school systems are posting activities on their websites to keep kids occupied with more than video games and Facebook chats with their friends.

D.C. Public Schools published an extensive list here. Arlington’s is here. Check your own school system’s website for other suggestions.

If you have any suggestions, let’s hear them.


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By Valerie Strauss  | February 9, 2010; 5:13 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, Learning, Montgomery County Public Schools  | Tags:  schools closed  
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Next: Should kids get homework on snow days?


Is the MoCo superintendent even in town today during this weather emergency? He was scheduled to be in Phoenix, AZ:

Whose job should it be to evaluate whether schools can open on Tuesday, and review information on snow removal efforts, etc?

Posted by: ontarget1 | February 10, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

If one child is injured or killed today because of the snow, Weast and the entire school board should be arrested for child abuse.

Posted by: kotchg2074 | February 16, 2010 5:50 AM | Report abuse

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