County and City Schools Closed…why?

Cecil writes: I heard on the radio this morning (2/20) that Albemarle County and Charlottesville City schools (among others) are closed today. I don’t have a problem with that; I don’t even have a child in the school system. But I am curious – -it seems to me that the streets are pretty much clear, at least in the city. Why do they remain closed? Does anyone have any experience with these kinds of school-closing decisions, someone who could shed light on what factors go into consideration? This layperson wonders.

9 Responses to “County and City Schools Closed…why?”

  • From today’s Daily Progress, in an article by Braxton Williams:

    Although most major and minor roads in the Charlottesville area were plowed by Wednesday, many, including U.S. 29, were in parts not plowed all the way to the edge. This, Charlottesville and Albemarle County school officials said, makes it near impossible for buses to maneuver and turn around, and also makes for dangerous bus stops.

    “They’re doing a lot of real good work in the city, but a lot of side streets, everything else and where the buses turn around, we’re having extreme difficulty,” city schools human resources director W.T. Lewis said. “For safety’s sake, we’re worried about how the kids would be.”

    Albemarle Superintendent Kevin C. Castner reported county schools are closed today for the same reasons, which he estimated would have kept more than 50 percent of students at home.

    I wonder if that really is the sole reason?

  • I believe that the school officials take into account the condition of the sidewalks and the bus stops. To walk to the bus stops it is necessary to walk in the street and then when the kids get to the stops they must wait in the street.

    Kevin Cox

  • Not sure. Every year, the County sends home a "snow emergency plan" that spells out in rather good detail what they’ll do if the roads are in less than perfect shape, but passable. The plan involves students walking (or being driven, I suppose) to the nearest main road. This would seem to make sense – it’s a really nice plan.

    Since I first became aware of the plan in 1995, the county has implemented it exactly zero times. Even in cases where roads were far clearer than they are now, they’ve kept schools closed. One time, when this caused a pretty serious strain on us trying to arrange for child care, we called the county to inquire, and were told that while most of the roads were fine, dirt roads were still in very bad shape. I pointed out that that seems to have been the point of the emergency plan, and was met with the closest thing to a blank look you can get over the phone.

    I don’t know what percentage of county roads are considered "dirt roads," but it would seem to me that keeping the vast majority of students out of school because a small number might need to walk to a clear bus stop or arrange for alternate transportation to get to class is very short-sighted. It puts strains on everybody else and can create a situation where the school board or state has to decide to shorten the school year because there are too many snow days to make up, which I seem to remember happening a couple of years ago.

    Nobody is advocating putting our school children in harm’s way. That said, I’m curious as to how many snow day emergency room trips there are, and whether that exceeds the number of accidents that might occur if a reasonable snow plan were in use. I suppose the difference is the county doesn’t have any liability if a kid is injured sledding on a snow day.

    Yesterday, they had backhoes clearing off the shoulders on the bridges that cross the reservoir near the intersection of Earlysville and Woodlands Roads. They spent at least half of the day doing this. There are no bus stops there, and rarely is there any pedestrian traffic. Before the backhoes showed up. vehicular traffic was able to proceed unimpeded. Might that equipment have been put to better use clearing bus stops and school parking lots? Something to think about, anyway.

  • that’s interesting. In my original post, I was trying hard not to be all "in my day, we got one snow day and then we had to get back to school" about it. as a parent, i definitely don’t want my kid being put in harm’s way. but it does seem that the strategy is way more cautious than when I was a kid. and it does put a huge strain on parents who work, not to mention the lost educational time (making it up in June is just not the same).

  • I agree – my memory may be clouded, but I seem to recall far fewer snow days in my youth as well, adn it seems that winters were somewhat more wintery then (of course, that was before global warming!). I also very clearly remember having to go to school several times on Saturdays to make up lost days. I can’t imagine that idea even being floated now!

  • Here’s an idea: halve all county administrative personnel’s pay on non-precipitation days and see what that gives.

  • I typically take the bus from PVCC on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Instead of the regular big, huge bus, we got to ride a CTS van today, and when we got into some residential neighborhoods, I saw why.

    Even in areas very close to main roads, such as Avon, the streets were still very narrow due to the snow not being plowed all the way to the curb, which I assume was (or wasn’t) done due to cars parked on the side of the road. Even the van had a difficult time navigating these roads, especially when we passed an oncoming vehicle. Our usual bus, or a slightly smaller school bus, would have had a horrible time navigating these roads… it might have been impossible and it certainly would have taken much longer.

    All I can say is… I’m jealous…

  • I remember snow days–not snow weeks. and i grew up in a snowier, midwestern clime! I also recall the school bus getting stuck in snow more than once, and us kids having to wait while they sent out a rescue bus to which we all had to transfer. presumably they dug the stuck bus out later.

    then again, i guess i went to school during less litigious days. the school administrators of my day probably had fewer concerns about lawsuits for this or that risk.

    this past week was a pain in many ways, but overall I loved the snow emergency. (despite my griping on another thread about the lack of shoveling entrepreneurs…)

  • There’s an interesting article about snow days in the Midwest in today’s Washington Post.

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