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FCPS Superintendent Explains and Apologizes — Again

by Karen Goff February 20, 2015 at 12:11 am 1,132 7 Comments

FCPS Superintendent Karen GarzaFairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza apologized Thursday for the “inconvenience that any of these delays caused to our students and families” as many school buses in Reston ran late on the bitterly cold day.

About 55 of the schools system’s 1,200 school buses — mostly in Reston and Herndon — were delayed at least 15 minutes during single-digit cold on Thursday morning, Garza said in a statement posted on the FCPS Facebook page and also sent to families.

Thursday was the only day this week that FCPS students had school. Monday was the Presidents Day holiday. Tuesday and Wednesday were snow days, though most snow of a 3.5-inch snowfall fell Monday and Tuesday. Friday was canceled due to temperatures expected to hover near zero in the morning.

This was the second time this school year Garza explained the thinking of the school system. In early January, FCPS was loudly criticized for holding school despite a snowstorm and dangerous driving conditions.

On Reston Now’s Facebook page, many readers lamented Fairfax County’s planning.

“They shouldn’t close for cold on some days and have school on time on other, equally cold days,” reader Arielle Masters wrote.

Added Staci Little Ford: “Damned if they damned if they don’t. But. .. they need to set certain weather rules as far as temperatures go. With road conditions needing to be the most important part of the equation.”

Here is the statement from Garza:

Thank you for your patience as we work through historic low temperatures and wind chills.

You should be receiving separately our official announcement that FCPS schools will be closed tomorrow because of the extreme weather. This has been a challenging week contending with the first major snowstorm of the winter followed by record-breaking cold temperatures and wind chills.

We decided to open schools on time today in an effort to bring some normalcy to our school day and to student and family schedules. We did experience some delays with our buses and fortunately the problems were not as widespread as we initially reported. We have about 1200 buses on the road each day and only 55 of our buses experienced delays of more than 15 minutes.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that any of these delays caused our students and families. The extreme cold weather forecast for tomorrow prompted us to close schools tomorrow.

Thank you for working with us. We look forward to warmer weather and a return to our regular schedule.

Karen K. Garza, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

FCPS Superintendent Karen Garza/file photo

  • Greendayer

    Not much of an explanation

  • LC

    I am still baffled why my kids were not in school today. Closed because it’s cold??! Are the schools not heated any more? I grew up in North Dakota and not once were schools cancelled in the winter and negative temperatures were the standard (not the windchill). At least set some standards and stick to them….seems like each decision is made half-assed and on a whim.

    • Reston Watcher

      This isn’t North Dakota. In Fargo in September 2013 they closed schools because it was too hot. It was in the 90s.

      I grew up here. I don’t even turn on my air conditioner unless it’s over 95 outside.

      How much time and money should Fairfax spend planning for something that happens twice in a century?

      This is extreme weather for Fairfax. The schools do have heating systems, but they weren’t designed for North Dakota conditions. Our diesel buses don’t necessarily start up at 5 am. Many of our six-year-old kids don’t have arctic gear to wear while walking to school or waiting for the bus that isn’t coming because it wouldn’t start.

      Relax. The kids will just go to school for a few extra days in June. When it’s comfortably in the 90s.

      • Karen Goff

        Actually, they probably won’t have to add days. When the system eliminated mini-Mondays, it added in instructional hours. So the schools will be less likely to have to add days because they have the hours.

      • Guest

        How much time would it take to make a plan? If it’s 15 degrees or less school will be closed. There’s the plan. At least it would set expectations. You should plan for the unlikely…a fire, an earthquake, a tornado, etc. If you have a job where you don’t have to jump through hoops everytime school is cancelled that’s good for you but not everyone does.

        • Reston Watcher

          School closings are not unlikely, they’re common. When the weather is extreme, they’re very common. You should expect them and plan for them so you don’t have to jump through hoops when they happen.

          Why 15 degrees? There are more variables than just the forecast temperature. How certain is the forecast? What will it cost to close all the schools at that temperature, and is it really needed? Could you just open late? Don’t want to close them unnecessarily, or keep them open when you shouldn’t. Did you factor in the wind? Sunny or cloudy? Is it going to warm up or stay cold? Is it twenty degrees, but with freezing rain coming later? How long has it already been extremely cold and how many buses have already broken down?

          Have you seen the pubic comments on proposed rules? LC from North Dakota would say the kids should be out walking to school barefoot with it’s a toasty 15 degrees.

          You may work in a job where every decision can be reduced to a single number, but most real-world decisions aren’t like that. You can’t make it simple just because you want it simple. It has to be a judgment call. Sometimes they’ll get it obviously right, sometimes obviously wrong and sometimes folks will disagree. That’s why we have people running the schools and not computers.

  • thebratwurstking

    This is the real reason: http://youtu.be/-HkRDgSN6BA

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