School Board’s McElveen: Exposure, Bus Issues Part of Decision Making in Cold

Ryan McElveen/Credit: FCPSFairfax County Public Schools have been canceled or delayed in the past for reasons as varied as hurricanes and, of course, snow.

But until this week, never for plain, old cold. Due to the effects of the polar vortex — which blew in record-breaking low temperatures from North Dakota to Atlanta — FCPS classes and activities were canceled Tuesday and there will be a two-hour delay on Wednesday, the school system said.

Then again, it hasn’t been this cold in Fairfax County for a long time. It was 1 degree F Tuesday morning at Dulles International Airport, setting a record.

Wednesday will start out nearly as cold, with morning temps in the single digits, but should warm up to a more-typical 32 in the afternoon.

FCPS At-Large School Board member Ryan McElveen, who has become somewhat of a social media icon among students for his quick tweets and Facebook posts after FCPS makes a closing announcement, says making the call is complicated and has to do with transportation and school equipment, even if roads are dry.

“Surrounding districts have had serious issues with their buses starting up in the morning, so we are trying to avoid a similar situation,” McElveen told Reston Now. “Also, we are also concerned with temperatures and exposure. The issues that have been experienced in surrounding districts are dead batteries, frozen lines and cracked parts. Those districts have bus depots, unlike FCPS, which makes fixing the buses easier.”

Still, some parents — whose children have been out of school for winter break since Dec. 20 only to go back for a day — say they are frustrated by FCPS’ decision making. On Tuesday, Reston Now posed a question to its Facebook followers: “Should school have been canceled today?” There were 61 answers; opinions covered a wide range.

Some of the answers:

  • “I have read everyone’s comment on here and as a bus driver I am thankful school is closed. Can anyone please tell me how many buses would not have started this morning? If you say more than 40 you might be right. There would have been to0 many children stranded this morning.”
  • “I think there should have been school. If parents decided it was too cold for their children then they can keep their child home. I worked as a teacher’s assistant for handicapped children during the summer, and many children came to school starving and obviously don’t eat much at home. A lot of those same families don’t have the money or resources to properly heat or cool their own home. Coming to school was better than staying home.”
  • “I think there should have been school today as well. There is too much winter left to be using this many snow days so early in the season.”
  • “Absolutely not! Too many children will not be dressed for this extreme cold!”
  • “A priority would be appropriate clothing for this weather. I can understand the bus argument however. Nowadays parents do allow their kids to be a little wimpy.”
  • “For the sake of children who have to wait outside for the school bus, absolutely (it should have been canceled).”

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