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.