An inside look at MCPS snow policy

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An inside look at MCPS snow policy

Graphic by Selina Ding.

Graphic by Selina Ding.

Graphic by Selina Ding.

Graphic by Selina Ding.

By Matthew Proestel

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MCPS has decided to call multiple delays and closures due to dangerous weather this school year. The Black & White took a look at the process for determining whether a delay or closure is necessary.

3:00 – 4:15 a.m. The MCPS Department of Transportation dispatches six individuals to drive around the county, surveying the snow and ice coverage on roads and sidewalks. Additionally, they assess the forecasted weather. After completing the assessment, the team compiles and relays their information to MCPS Director of Transportation Todd Watkins.

4:15 – 4:30 a.m. Watkins joins a conference call with Chief Operating Officer Andrew Zuckerman and Superintendent Jack Smith to discuss the reported conditions and devise a course of action by 4:45.

4:45 a.m. Delay and cancellation notifications are placed on the MCPS website and social media accounts.

This year, officials have found it particularly challenging to make a final decision due to the timing of of predicted weather, Watkins said.

“Recently weather forecasts have predicted rain with the air temperature being below the freezing point but it has been predicted around 5:00 a.m., leading us to call for a two hour delay and then reevaluate as to whether the two hour delay was enough or does school need to be canceled entirely,” Watkins said.

MCPS buses transport roughly 100,000 students everyday to school and about 60,000 students walk to school a day, making safety the primary concern, communications officer Derek Turner said on behalf of MCPS.

Parent Jenny Rock has kids in elementary, middle and high school and thinks that although school delays often make a day hectic, MCPS has made these decisions for a good reason.

“I don’t work, so I don’t mind when other kids stop by to hang out with my kids,” Rock said. “When school is cancelled, I figure that the conditions are bad around other parts of the county and that MCPS is looking out for safety concerns even when the weather conditions look fine in Bethesda.”

Math teacher David Paulson has been affected by the increased time crunch that he now has to teach and review with his AP classes due to snow days.

“It puts a little pressure on my AP classes because I have to worry about finishing teaching the course and having time left over to review for the AP test,” Paulson said.

Andrea Herman, another parent with children in MCPS, understands that making a school cancellation decision is a complex issue.

“It has been challenging, but I understand how difficult it must be to make those decisions,” Herman said. “It is a thankless job that causes frustration no matter the result.”

“The recent snow days have affected my work in the sense that I have to show up to work late and there is no snow on the ground, but my colleagues have been very understanding,” she said.

Senior Max Gordy believes that the recent snow delays have emphasized the importance of student safety.

“The roads have been really slippery recently,” Gordy said. “The snow delays have made getting to school safer for all of the students who drive to school as well as take the bus or walk.”

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