eli bus

Tuesday morning was a disaster in terms of the weather related traffic mishaps.  Despite snow and freeze warnings issued on all major news programs, the  major Northern Virginia jurisdictions chose to open school on time.  This decision did not bode well for Prince William County Schools and its students and faculty.  At least 12 accidents reported  across the county involved school buses.  Students waited in sub-freezing weather at bus stops for buses that never arrived.  Where were the thought processes of those making these decisions?

Apparently the NoVA schools  followed a  monkey-see, monkey-do  approach to decision -making in a sea of rather unwise monkeys rather than smartly assess the current weather situation of  rapidly falling snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

Students who even got to school  spent the day in cafeterias across the county watching movies.  Many of their teachers couldn’t get to school on time.   Classrooms doubled up.  In general, things were a mess and Prince William County wasn’t alone in what has to be one of the biggest blunders in a long time.  According to the Washington Post:

The first snowfall of the new year was heavier than expected, prompting apologies from several of the region’s school systems and wreaking havoc with the morning commute Tuesday as icy roads and hundreds of collisions snarled traffic.

With forecasts calling for one to two inches of snow, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties opened schools on time and later came to regret it. Students were left waiting for buses that never came. Schools reported that buses were stuck in traffic or unable to navigate icy hills. The decision to open infuriated parents, who accused school officials of being reckless and putting students in unnecessary danger.


There was more snow than forecast, for sure.  However, school officials should know that weather forecasting is not an exact science.  They should have made the decision early on  to delay school opening for 2 hours.  That delay would have given decision-makers time to assess the weather, the roads, temperatures and the over-all student safety index.

Prince William County always seems to follow “what Fairfax does” and has done so as long as I can remember, despite the fact that they deny this happens.  It sounds like to me, if Fairfax makes stupid choices, then Prince William will make stupid choices.

Come on gang.  Let’s get this right.  Let’s make weather based decisions in a timely fashion so parents have time make alternate arrangements.  Let’s get those parking lots cleaned.  It isn’t just about snow removal.  One school has a parking lot so poorly designed that black ice forms every time the temperature drops below 32 degrees.  Whatever melts during the day stays on the lot and becomes treachery the next morning.  (hint:  middle school, western end)

When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

22 Thoughts to “PWCS: Better school closing decision-making in the future, please!”

  1. Mom

    “Where were the thought processes of those making these decisions?” Hmm, seems Moon might be turning to the dark side of the force given that this seems to question to intellectual capacity of the esteemed and infallible Dr. Walts. Come on Moon say it, you can do it, repeat after me:

    Fire Walts Now!
    Fire Walts Now!
    Fire Walts Now!

  2. Nah….can’t do it. I feel the same way about all of them. Always have, going back to a long, long time.

    Someone has to do the job and no one suits me. In the long run, they are all pretty much the same. The worst was King Richard. He did one good thing, in my opinion.

    Now, as for school closings, I have been on the dark side.

  3. Mom, do you remember King Richard or are you too young?

    That should be your gift for today, someone asking you if you are too young. Yea, you just got carded. ho ho ho

  4. Rick Bentley

    But – it wasn’t really that bad out there. If yesterday is the threshold for closing schools, we might end up closed 30-40 days a year.

    1. Well, yes, it was pretty bad. It was the combination of temperature and snow made a dangerous traffic situation.

      What part of the county did you feel was safe for school buses and walkers?

  5. Mom

    I haven’t been “carded” since I was 14 and that was when driver’s licenses were etched on stone tablets.

    1. Well, I just carded you. Do you remember King Richard (Johnson)?

  6. punchak

    No matter what the schools decide – it’s wrong – and we, who do not have the
    responsibility, are always complaining, it seems. Last year Ffx Co schools closed and the snow
    refused to fall as predicted. The one in charge got hell from all sides. Evidently tried to
    avoid same mistake this year, but weather gods refused to cooperate.
    Getting hell from all sides again.

    1. When snow starts early its just prudent to call a 2 hour delay so there is time to see what is going to develop.

  7. Pat.Herve

    As a parent and an adult – the decision ultimately resides in your best opinion. One can complain that they did not close school and put their children at risk – if you put them on the bus you are also at fault.

    They should have at least had a delay.

  8. Starry flights

    A delay would’ve made sense. Hope they learned something for next time

  9. @Starry flights

    I wouldn’t count on it. As I recall, the curve was very steep, especially from one year to the next.

    It isn’t the Powers that Be out there falling on their asses.

  10. Mom

    Was in a different jurisdiction at the time, picking on a different Superintendent (Melton Wright). Funny how Johnson started at a mere $45,000 back then.

  11. DB

    While the snow wasn’t deep, it was the rapid fall and absence of plows/treatments that made the traffic a mess. Thankfully my school system amended the 2 hour delay to a cancellation as apparently Lomond dr was a cluster of poo traffic-wise. My husband spent over 1 hour driving from the exxon at the corner of Sudley and Lomond to the Loch Lomond area at 8AM. On the little hill near the Lomond Dr bridge, cars were sliding backwards. Around 10:30 I saw a PWC school bus pick up a few random kids who were still waiting at the bus stop.

    1. Flatbranch s always a problem when it snows. It ought to be grated or something.

  12. @Mom

    If Johnson was making a mere $45,000, can you imagine what the teachers were making? Holy cow! $10k a year if they were lucky. I expect his salary went up a lot, considering when he was superintendent.

    Where was Melton Wright?

    King Richard did one very good thing. He instituted the supplemental retirement system in PWC. 403Bs for teachers and administrators. I am not sure if the not certificated staff was eligible for these benefits or not. I think that the supplemental retirement also went by the wayside following the recession and how badly schools were hit.

  13. Dr. Walts apologized for the school opening decision Tuesday at the school board meeting. He assumed full responsibility. His own daughter waited 45 minutes for the bus.


    One thing caught my eye:

    From Bristow Beat:

    While neighboring school divisions have offered employees. who braved treacherous roads to report to work, an extra day of vacation, Walts said PWCS would do what it can considering budget restraints.

    I am curious what school divisions have offered employees an extra day of vacation. that would be unprecedented in Prince William County.

    Not only would it be unprecedented, it isn’t happening here. Prince William County always operates on the cheap. Just listen to the BOCS meeting. Everyone is trying to out-republican each other. Going on the cheap. Well, not everyone. the two Democrats weren’t.

  14. Pat.Herve

    Fairfax. Why they are getting a day – I do not know. Well, I know – if a teacher was unable to get to their school during the school day they are not being penalized (day off), but if you are a teacher who was at school, you are getting an extra day. This is not a good policy.

    1. Fairfax just isn’t as cheap as Prince William. Listen to the BOCS meeting. It was all about being cheap. I expect them to count paper clips in the middle of the meetings. They are all trying to out-Republican each other now.

      Prince William County has always thought it could invent time. Now it thinks it can invent money. It is the worst county in the world for just looking and acting cheap. I bet the CXO has to bring a chair from her home just so guests have a decent seat in her office.

  15. Ed Myers

    Schools should close at the first hint of inclement weather. It reduces the traffic volume.

    Instead of a vacation day the kids should be instructed on the procedure for unscheduled closings…the website would provide homework assignments and conference calling numbers and webex accounts so teaching can continue remotely.

    virtually every middle and high school student has a smartphone. Let’s use it for education instead of/in addition to gossiping.

    1. If kid doesn’t have access then someone will howl bloody murder. (not the kid who escaped assignments)

      Fairfax and Loudoun did the right thing.

      Shame on Sudley School for not letting those children in immediately. There are a lot of riders and walkers at that school and it was too cold to be standing outside, even for a few minutes.

  16. Jackson Bills

    No matte what decision is made and when someone will always complain about it. I kept my little one home last Monday because it just didn’t look safe to me, and his bus was over 30 minutes late anyway.

    The one thing I did have a problem with was the 2 hour delays every day last week and today. I can understand today, some areas may have some freezing rain but I don’t understand the 2 hour delays all week last week.

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