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Posted at 6:31 AM ET, 02/16/2010

Fairfax doublespeak on school openings and MoCo’s gamble

By Valerie Strauss

The adults who work in Fairfax County government are allowed to take unscheduled leave today because, presumably, the streets are not plowed well enough for business as usual. Yet kids (and adults) are supposed to get to Fairfax County public schools. How nice: They get two extra hours to get there.

Something is wrong with this picture.

If the roads aren’t clear enough to order all county government employees to go to work, (as emergency service personnel were told to do), how can county officials be confident that the roads are clear enough for school buses to pick up tens of thousands of students?

Just yesterday, county officials were seeking volunteers to shovel out local schools.

Arlington County asked property owners to clear sidewalks so that students can get to class, and it has delayed the start of school by two hours today but at least it is being consistent: Its adult employees to get to work. But a 9:45 p.m. update on the county government Web site had a little item giving one pause:

County officials ask property owners to clear sidewalks so we can get our kids back to school on Tuesday. In the interest of public safety, the Arlington County Fire Department requests that residents clear snow away from fire hydrants and storm drains
Arlington Public Schools will open two hours late Tuesday -- will affect some programs in school buildings. Please check cancellations and closings. Arlington County government offices will open on time.

The notion that counties had to ask residents to check their bus stops (in Prince William and Montgomery) doesn’t leave one with a whole lot of confidence that things are back to normal. In fact, yesterday’s update on the Montgomery County government Web site said:

Many streets continue to have several inches of hard-packed snow and ice with some blocked lanes. DOT will continue with road clearing efforts using construction equipment, such as front end loaders, to scrape and remove the hard packed snow and ice from neighborhood streets. Snow removal will also continue where needed, and equipment will haul snow off of neighborhood streets....DOT asks all residents to exercise extreme caution while driving on neighborhood streets. Large snow piles are commonplace and in some cases may interfere with sight distances.

Sounds like fine conditions for school buses.

Some counties realized that their best efforts weren’t enough and decided to keep schools closed today: Anne Arundel, Fauquier, Frederick, Howard, Prince George’s and Prince William counties and Alexandria.

Let’s wish the best for those school systems that had enough confidence in their snow removal operations to open today:

The District schools are opening on time; Loudoun County is opening one hour late; and, along with Arlington and Fairfax and Montgomery, opening two hours late are Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties.


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By Valerie Strauss  | February 16, 2010; 6:31 AM ET
Categories:  Fairfax County Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools  | Tags:  school openings, snow  
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I think a 2 hour delay is a good move. Commuters will have moved off the roads in local neighborhoods. Children, many of whom have been to the mall and outside all weekend will do just fine.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 16, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Number 1 in any situation with children is to be sure they are safe - if there is any doubt at all, not just measuring by something like the teenage mall attendence, then you don't put the kids at risk. period.

Otherwise, this year's snow storms have constituted a HUGE abberation from our typical weather - storms of the century? -
and the reactions to them need to be adjusted as's not business as usual.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | February 16, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Valerie, why are you freaking out about this? The schools can only do so much about the snow. If you are worried about your kids' safety, find a different bus stop that's not so snowy, or wait with your kids for the bus, or drive them yourself, or just let them stay home. Please stop demanding that other people take care of the snow for you, and find some solutions yourself.

Posted by: bubba777 | February 16, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I've moved from DC to the Dakotas, where my city requires home/business owners to keep sidewalks shoveled cleanly enough to allow wheelchair use and to remove snow around fire hydrants. I don't think it's an unreasonable requirement.

Posted by: momof4md | February 16, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Fairfax made a poor decision and many parents are NOT happy. Buses got stuck this morning, VDOT piled mounds and mounds of snow and ice back on shoveled sidewalks so many kids had to walk in busy roads to get to school. Not all parents are able to drive their children like I was able to. And it was a MESS! The school officials should have at least driven around the vast county so they could see many of us can barely get out of our neighborhoods. And this is the same school system that will close for 2 inches of snow. They should have asked VDOT for more help.

Posted by: amylorr1 | February 16, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

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