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Posted at 6:50 PM ET, 02/ 4/2010

Why haven't all school systems decided to close on Friday?

By Valerie Strauss

I’d like to know why all of the school systems in the Washington area haven’t already ordered schools closed for Friday.

My colleagues Michael Birnbaum and Jenna Johnson reported that school systems are weighing what to do on Friday because of the foreboding weather forecasts. But they're concerned about how many snow days they have in their schedules and how many have already been used.

I would like someone to tell me what the connection is between the number of snow days a school has built into its calendar and whether or not a school should close because of the weather.

The calculation seems fairly simple to me: If enough adults and kids can get to school SAFELY so that some learning is committed, keep the schools open. If there is concern that that will not happen, close them.

The forecasts are calling for a massive snow storm to hit tomorrow. There doesn’t seem to be any wiggle room in the forecast. School officials in Alexandria, Fairfax, Manassas City, Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford have already decided to close on Friday.

Why not close all the schools now and let parents have time to plan what they are going to do with their kids?

We’ve had this discussion before.

I’ve argued that school officials make decisions--sometimes with an overabundance of caution--with the best information they have at the time they have to decide. Sometimes they get it wrong. So what?

Others disagree, saying that Washingtonians are, essentially, babies and should toughen up. It may be true that they are babies and should toughen up, but I still don’t want people on the roads when it is obviously treacherous and they don’t have to be there.

So come on, the rest of you school officials. What are you waiting for?

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By Valerie Strauss  | February 4, 2010; 6:50 PM ET
Categories:  Health  | Tags:  school closures  
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Next: Fairfax County schools reject book challenges


It's still bewildering how Fairfax County still procrastinates in their closing decisions.

Bottom line - This storm is likely to be one of the biggest in what about 8 years. The weather forecast hasn't changed significantly in the past 24 hours except that the latest NWS bulletin has moved the snow amount upward from 1-2 ft to 1 1/2-2 ft. In other words the area is going to get clobbered.

Parents should just bury the school system in phone calls and go ahead with planning on keeping kids home or whatever they would do if the schools were acting responsibly already.

Posted by: AmzgGrce | February 5, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Oh I forgot - Maybe Fairfax is hoping to get enough hours in before they have to dismiss school to count the day.

THAT would be high stakes gambling and if that comes out as their logic... Fire the lot of them. That would be as dumb as you can get in the face of this storm. If it was threat of 3-6 inches that would be one thing but this is a Big Bad Storm getting ready to shut the town down for 3-4 days. You don't mess with a storm like this.

Posted by: AmzgGrce | February 5, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

If the snow isn't going to START falling until after 12 o'clock noon, then why would any school system decide NOT to open??? I suspect that several will make the decision to close early. That seem to make more sense than keeping kids at home when they can get in 4 or 5 classes. If parents are uncomfortable with the decision the school system has made, then they can always make a different decision for their family.

Enjoy the snow!

Posted by: dcquilter | February 5, 2010 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Ummm, Fairfax made the decision to close around 5pm on Thursday.

Posted by: fxli1 | February 5, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

OK people get a grip! It's only snow. The rate of accumulation is very slow. Yes it's slippery but c'mon, a little planning on your behalf and voila, you keep the kids home by exercising your own judgment. When I speak to friends and relatives from the northern states almost unanimously they laugh at the snow phobia in our area.

Posted by: SoupLine | February 5, 2010 5:51 AM | Report abuse

What is missing from this blog and comments? What is no one considering? Who is being forgotten?

I'm no fan of Michelle Rhee, and while I think that many of her policies not only don't make any sense, they also end up marginalizing those students with the greatest needs. However, this time I agree wholeheartedly with her decision. For many students in DCPS, the free breakfast and lunch may be their only meal of the day. I remember when I first started teaching and I taught in a Ward 6 and Ward 8 school with more than 90% of the students qualified for free or reduced school lunch. I was in complete shock when during my lunch duty I saw most students eat everything on their plate, and throw almost nothing away---vegetables, fruits, etc.! Today, I teach in an upper northwest school where most kids bring their lunch, and the trash cans are overflowing with uneaten & untouched food after every lunch period.

For DC, while I would love a snow day as a teacher, the right decision is always to keep their schools open for reasons like this.

How unsurprising that the Post wouldn't even think of the majority of students within their own city.

Posted by: mfalcon | February 5, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Just to be safe, we shouldn't let the kids out of the house until April. I mean, it's all about our children's safety. Anyone who allows their children outside of their house from December until April just doesn't love their children.

Posted by: donnie2 | February 5, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Are you kidding me?

It is 11:14 am and there are very light flurries outside.

Why should ANY school be closed? The plan to close at noon looks pretty foolish.

Posted by: drmommy | February 5, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Cheers for Michelle Rhee for making exactly the right call--school until noon in DCPS.

It didn't hurt her standing with disgruntled DCPS parents (like me!) that she personally recorded the robocall that went out yesterday afternoon to all DCPS families.

I think DCPS only budgets 2 snow days per school year, and getting in 3+ hours allows DCPS to log this as a day of school.

Posted by: Trulee | February 5, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

It is time we let go of the federal requirement for 184 days (or whatever it is). Natural calamities or acts of God, whatever you want to call them, cannot be planned for. The school systems already walk a tightrope trying to weigh safety against filling the requirement and/or appeasing the parents who count on school as their babysitter. Imagine the earfuls the school officials get when they guess wrong, have school, and then have to send kids home from school (and therefore parents home from work). Parents need to plan and schools need to put safety first, without the pressure of trying to fill some arbitrary requirement for school days. They should plan 4 or 5 snow days into the schedule, and if they have to exceed that number, those days are not made up. It is cost-prohibitive; esp. now that we are ditching sports and the arts because of budget cutbacks. It is ridiculous that they must figure a way to add this time back. It is wasted time in any case. They add 15 minutes to the school day for the rest of the year and kids literally watch tv during that time (remember the big winter about 7 years ago -- that's what they did here in PWC). Or they go to school until the end of June. Everyone knows once the tests are over, there is little to nothing done in school. Why force everyone to participate in this charade? As long as we have the traditional fall-to-summer school year, we should just accept that some years it snows more than other years, and write those days off. For those who look out their window and say "My streets look pretty clear," good for you. Many of the counties in the Washington area are still pretty rural, and for every cleared road, there are others that are impassable or iced over and dangerous. The school systems have to think about safety for all their kids, not just in the plowed subdivisions. And for the people who talk about babies and toughening up, I lived in Boston for many years. They have enough snow plows and heavy equipment there for everyone to have one in their own garage. And many people do! They also have a yearly snowfall average of nearly 4 feet. The level of equipment they have in places such as New England, Chicago, etc., is cost-prohibitive for an area that only gets a few small snows a year on average. When we get more than that, stay home and stay safe.

Posted by: Chrisraley11 | February 5, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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