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Posted at 4:20 PM ET, 02/ 8/2010

Why Loudoun schools are closed all week

By Valerie Strauss

A 40-minute phone conversation this morning among Loudoun County Public Schools Supt. Edgar B. Hatrick, senior staff and transportation and maintenance workers in the field persuaded Hatrick that there was no safe way to open schools this week--especially with predictions of another major new snowfall starting tomorrow.

Here were the considerations, according to schools spokesman Wayde Byard:

--Snow is being moved from parking lots--but where are they going to put it? “We’re bringing in some special equipment, but we don’t expect to have the lots cleared until Friday,” he said.

--The county’s 770-bus fleet won’t be completely free of snow until Sunday.

--The walkways and bus stops in residential areas won’t be free of snow until Friday at the earliest.

VDOT [The Virginia Department of Transportation] made a heroic effort, but the secondary roads haven’t been cleared yet,” said Byard. “Having students and staff on the road under bad conditions, especially when many are leaving before dawn, is unsafe. Basically, this decision came down to a single word: safety.”

So Hatrick ordered the schools closed for the rest of the week, giving parents time to make plans for their kids (assuming the parents could get out of their houses to go wherever they have to go).

I’m guessing that Loudoun is just ahead of the curve.

As of now, Prince George’s, Prince William, Montgomery, Arlington and Alexandria school systems will be closed on Tuesday, and Fairfax and Howard County schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

As usual, D.C. public schools seem to be waiting until the last minute to decide when to reopen schools. Yesterday’s decision process about whether to open school today was a little wacky; first the schools were to open two hours late, but the decision was reversed a short time later and schools were closed for the day.

With so many District streets still unplowed or poorly plowed, including major roads, it is not clear why Superintendent Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty haven't yet made the decision to close D.C. Public Schools tomorrow.

This is especially puzzling given the fact that between 47 percent and 50 percent of students go to schools outside the boundaries of their own neighborhood. That means they need to hit the roads, sidewalks and public transportation (which has been limited since the storm), making it even harder to get to school.

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By Valerie Strauss  | February 8, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools  | Tags:  school closings  
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Loudoun County Public Schools has made a wise decision. It's a great time for students to read some good books too.

Posted by: shadwell1 | February 8, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

DC announced they will be closed. Hope this latest storm is a miss, or we could lose the whole week.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | February 8, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Sage analysis by the Loudoun superintendent. Very unlike Jerry Weast, here in Montgomery; I'm surprised he didn't wait until 4:50 AM to announce the schools would be closed today, as he usually does.

Posted by: stratman1 | February 9, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

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