Did MoCo Overreact By Closing Schools Today?
My phone's ringing off the hook as Montgomery County parents vent about another sudden closing of public schools by a system that seems to grab almost any opportunity to toss a wrench into parents' daily routines.
The school system announced just before noon that it is closing schools two and a half hours early today because some schools are without heat or water because of the massive water main break that turned River Road into a facsimile of its namesake this morning.
Unquestionably, the disaster has had a powerful and difficult impact on some portions of the county. And running a school without water can lead to some inconveniences.
But parents say those problems pale next to the havoc caused by the system's sudden closing. Takoma Park resident Steve Davies says he got the word about the closing through the county's emergency phone system, which left a message on his voice mail. So he was there when the bus arrived this afternoon, but some of his neighbors hadn't checked their voice mail and so their kids came off the bus with nowhere to go--and that's exactly the story I'm hearing from elsewhere around the county as well.
The theory behind the closing is that schools are not equipped to conduct class in buildings that lack heat or water, particularly on such a cold day. But this is sloughing the problem off on parents, who are most likely in the very same situation, given that most younger kids live in the same neighborhood as the school that's suffering from lack of water. And at least according to latest reports, large portions of the county still have heat and water, so those parents are being dragged home from work for no reason except the county's usual excuse about how if the buses run in one part of Montgomery, they have to roll everywhere.
So: Was the system right to close schools on short notice? Was the word spread quickly and widely enough? Should the schools have turned themselves into shelters for those who don't have water and heat at home?
The schools have an obligation to keep kids safe, of course, but my sense is that the safest place for most children in the middle of the day is at school, even if it gets chilly inside. Sending kids home to empty houses and forcing parents to rush home in the middle of a traffic nightmare hardly seems like public service.
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