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FCPS Admits ‘Wrong Call’ on Keeping Schools Open

by Karen Goff January 6, 2015 at 2:25 pm 4,326 19 Comments

(Updated 2:20 p.m. with new statement from Fairfax County Public Schools)

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza issued a statement Tuesday afternoon regarding the decision to not delay or close schools despite Tuesday morning’s snowfall.

Meanwhile, all Tuesday evening and after-school activities are canceled, FCPS says.

Wrote Garza:

It is clear that our decision to keep schools open today was the wrong call given the intensity of this weather system. We are very sorry for that. We have heard from many of our families and we are listening. We thank you for your patience and working with us through this very difficult circumstance. Student safety is always our first priority in determining whether to open or close schools.

We will dismiss schools at their normal times this afternoon. Although weather and road conditions are improving, we do anticipate that some of our buses will experience additional delays transporting students home. As we indicated to you earlier, if you wish to pick up your child early, please feel free to make those arrangements with your school. SACC centers will be open today until 6:15 p.m., which is their regular closing time. SACC administrators request parents make every effort to pick up children earlier, if possible.

We appreciate the many teachers and school staff members that worked diligently to get our schools ready. We have also heard that many parents volunteered to help the schools welcome our students.

Our focus now is to get our students and staff home safely this afternoon. Students who were unable to get to school today will be given excused absences.

Please know we will be going over our procedures and processes to make every improvement possible to avoid the situation we encountered this morning. We are closely monitoring the weather conditions and will make a decision with regard to schools opening tomorrow and will let families know, through our normal communication processes, as soon as possible.

Original story:

After a morning in which several inches of snow fell and schools remained on schedule, Fairfax County offered an explanation for keeping its schools open.

Fairfax County Schools opened without delay on Tuesday, even as buses were stuck, cars spun out and many county roads were unplowed. #CLOSEFCPS was trending on Twitter.

FCPS posted this statement on its website at 10:20 a.m.:

We apologize for the difficulties the weather caused this morning.

Please know that significant area government entities were coordinating at a very early hour.

The decision was made with the best information we had very early this morning. Needless to say, the conditions were far worse than anticipated.

Weather conditions are expected to improve around midday. At this time, we are planning to dismiss schools at their normal dismissal time, however, we are continuing to closely monitor the situation and will keep parents apprised.

We are aware that people are asking us to cancel school. Students are safest at school when parents have not had a chance to make alternate plans for their child’s return home from school. However, should you wish to pick up your child early, we will accommodate you. Again we apologize for the difficulties experienced this morning and we thank you for your patience.

Photo: Sunrise Valley ES students try and get to school Tuesday/Credit: Christy Winters Scott

  • Dexter Scott

    Don’t hate us for being incompetent!

  • FULL TIME BOJANGLER

    Key phrases in this are “significant area government entities” & “we will accommodate you”. You are damn straight you will accommodate us. Thanks for nothing. Do your damn jobs. You work for us. Virginia Dept. of Transportation can’t keep our streets clean . Garbage and animal carcasses stay on the sides of the roads for weeks. And clearly, a little snow throws everything off. I’m sure they will claim they need more money from the taxpayers. Keep on voting for the likes of Hudgins and Ken Plum.

    • Mike M

      Wait. What?
      Accountability? Who?

  • onethought

    FCPS: You’re not “accommodating” me if/when I pick up my child. He’s my child. You have to give him to me. This makes it sounds like there’s a choice, and you’re giving me a good deal. Not even the issue, really, but just another way you’re ticking everyone off today even worse by how you respond to what was a horrible decision.

    • Mike M

      I agree with you in how it OUGHT to work. But you may find the law has stripped you of many of your rights as a parent. You know which party does this.

      • Chuck Morningwood

        The Teapubs?

  • Heather Daugherty

    I don’t hate anyone but I do worry about parents and children trying to get to school or preschool or daycare or work a bus was stuck in front of my home with children on it . My husband and a kind neighbor helped him after 20 minutes it was cold he was stuck I was outside shoveling this is why I saw and heard and they probably got to school late. We are walkers but I think Fairfax and Loudoun made the wrong call today and made a lot of parents late or furious.

  • b.happy

    No one made you send your kids to school today.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      You’re absolutely right. I should have just rolled over and gone back to sleep instead of getting my kid up at 5 am. Better to sleep and miss a few hours of school than to be stuck on a bus without a bathroom for most of the school day.

  • LiliK

    “Assistant Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools Jeffrey Platenberg says people are questioning the judgement of the school system for not closing schools Tuesday.

    Administrators were expecting a dusting, but were surprised when the snow came down heavy and traffic became a major issue, Platenberg says. Fairfax County Public Schools are open Tuesday.

    He says things were already in motion and changing the plan late in the game would have been a bigger inconvenience for parents who had already left the house.”

    Bigger inconvenience? How about preventing kids from getting hurt, inconvenient or not. Has he been down some of the back roads in our county?

  • jojoblo

    They always weigh the “inconvenience” for parents “too high” because that is where they get the political flak…

    1) They should aways err on the side of safety for the kids over inconvenience of the parents

    2) weather forecasting is imperfect, therefore see # 1 above…

    We are teaching kids how to be “politically sensitive” to decisions, rather than simply making the right call.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    So, FCPS, words are cheap. Since my kid was stuck on a bus for 4 hours — Yes, he was on the stinking bus for 4 hours — are you prepared to come to my house and wash his urine soaked clothes?

  • Mike M

    The whole thing fascinates me. I grew up in major northern metro region. We got more snow at rush hour than here, and I’ve never seen such a comprehensive mess of a morning commute. I really don’t get it. OK. Traffic is bad to start . Too many light weight cars maybe. Sure, some incredibly inept drivers. I even saw some serious cell phone abuse this morning. But the roads were a flippin’ mess for a two inch storm. How come I never saw this up north. I think it’s because there the trucks GET IN THE TRAFFIC and put down their plows and clear as they go. Here they sit in parking lots and whine about the traffic. I THINK that’s the primary difference. Not sure. I also suspect they are too reliant on brine. It’s also interesting that recently the schools and VDOT have been overreactive. Today they seemed to barely react. I bet school is cancelled for the rumor of snow for the next two years.

  • Rational Reston

    Now a VA DoT mea cupla would be nice, too.

  • Richard

    I am a retired High School teacher who had previously agreed to sub for a colleague today at Fairfax High. I drove this morning from Reston to Fairfax at 6:30 AM. A 20 minute normal drive took an hour and the roads were simply not plowed at all. I grew up near Buffalo so I used to be experienced with snow but in Buffalo, snow plows are sent to assist drivers. FCPS needs to coordinate with VDOT. I arose at 5:30 and could see then that the roads were terrible. High School students drove cars today and many had numerous problems (not to mention using their cell phones as they drove). By 7AM, FCPS could have canceled Elementary School as no one at that hour could say that the roads were safe to be on for cars or buses. There needs to be some mention and some appreciation shown to the FCPS teachers and employees who showed up for work today. FCPS Administration put both employees and students at risk and VDOT failed big time. I hope more information comes out to explain what can be done in the future to rectify this situation.

  • clambj

    I really don’t blame the FCPS for this one. My question is, where were the snow plows??? It’s not as though the weather reports didn’t predict that we could get a few inches. I drove down Lawyers to Twin Branches a little before 8. Neither touched, no plows, no pre-treatment, total mess. Turned around on Twin Branches because people were stuck on the hill, drove over to Soapstone, still, never touched, not plowed, people stuck on the hill. Aren’t these roads “snow emergency routes”? Seriously, we’re not talking about a lot of snow here, just a couple inches. These roads could easily have been passable. I do question the FCPS statement “Please know that significant area government entities were coordinating at a very early hour. ” Clearly the county or VDOT, or whoever is in charge of treating and plowing the roads screwed up.

  • novatom

    I have to admit, being from Maine, I probably have too high expectations when it comes to clearing snow but I was appalled at the condition of South Lakes Drive when I left my house at 6:30 am yesterday morning. It didn’t look like anyone had touched it, and that’s a 4 lane road with zero traffic at that hour! (and a high school!!) Soapstone was still problematic last night. Fortunately I only added 15 minutes to my commute yesterday (perhaps because of my early departure in the morning).

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I don’t know about that. Wasn’t NCLB signed into law by a Repub Prez?

    • Mike M

      NCLB? Whoops! You’ve changed the topic to suit your views.

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