Washington DC-Area Schools And Snow: Let The Recriminations Begin!

Jan 6 snow bus-1You may have heard (or seen on Twitter), it snowed in the D.C.-area this morning. A fast moving clipper came through and left more snow that was expected. The storm arrived at the worst possible time, peaking during the morning rush in an area that never does snow well.

This, of course, created trouble for school systems that had to make an early morning call about opening or closing based on imperfect information (that turned out to be wrong, the storm exceeded the forecast). Result: It was messy. The picture above is an Arlington County school bus paralyzed on a hill and there was a lot of that going around. Now, a lot of angst about schools being open when people think they should have been closed and several counties have apologized to parents. More examples here. But keep in mind that had this been a storm as forecast the second-guessing would be about how soft school officials were for closing for an inch or two of snow. When the calls are on the edge there is a ritualized element to the complaining. And it’s worth remembering that there are costs to the idea that erring on the side of closing is always the right choice. In addition to lost learning some students lose the best meal they see all day. These snow closing decisions are no-wins for school systems and the marginal calls always look more straightforward in hindsight.

3 Replies to “Washington DC-Area Schools And Snow: Let The Recriminations Begin!”

  1. You are correct, but selective in your argument. There is the opportunity to delay school openings, too, at least until there is more information available to make a decision to remain open or close. It is not a black/white open/close decision – and some charters and districts in the area pursued that approach with the same information available to them.

  2. These incidents also support school based autonomy for such issues. In Nashville, TN, for example, all schools in the city are often closed because hills and vales (“hollers”) surrounding a few schools make bus transit a problem. Why not let each school decide? Logistics, I know. But, that’s a challenge to be solved, not a reason not to try.

  3. To pile on to Doug’s comment, the problem was with the 1-2 inches that fell, well within the forecasted range, with the temperatures well below freezing. To delay was certainly warranted by the forecast. I woke up and 6AM and thought something must be wrong with the website when it showed no delay. So, to those outside of the area, your piece falls short of presenting the facts accurately in order to preserve your narrative.

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