Counterpoint: Fairfax County’s defense for shutting down

In the spirit of giving Fairfax County Public Schools an opportunity to offer its reasoning for closing today, I’m posting an explanatory message from its Facebook page, which may or may not have been prompted by my earlier piece.

I’m also inserting photos of conditions from around Fairfax County sent in to us from readers after I asked for pictures of hazardous roads on Twitter and Facebook (I’ll let you be the judge as to whether these appear hazardous – I’m posting everything I received).

Related: Fairfax schools responds to criticism of snow cancellation decision

Here’s the County’s message:

FCPS’ primary concern is always student safety when making a decision about opening schools. We consider all the methods of transportation that FCPS students use to get to school: school buses, walking to schools or bus stops, parent drivers, and student drivers. The decision-making process especially considers those teenagers who drive to high schools in the early morning hours before it is light, those students who walk, and those students waiting at bus stops. There are also many students who attend schools, centers, or programs that are long distances from their homes.

In addition to main arteries such as I-66 and I-495, the county’s transportation system also includes narrow, winding roads in still relatively rural parts of the county such as Clifton and Great Falls. Fairfax County encompasses approximately 400 square miles and road conditions can vary significantly in different parts of the county. Yesterday and last evening, FCPS transportation supervisors traveled the routes our buses would traverse and inspected bus stops and the pathways walkers would be taking, and found that throughout Fairfax County there were still considerable areas that were unsafe and treacherous. While VDOT has done an outstanding job with the main arteries, there are continuing safety concerns with secondary roads and sidewalks.

 

For more on the decision making process, go to: http://www.fcps.edu/news/weatherdecision.shtml.

 

We are hopeful that the additional time will give road crews, homeowners associations, and private citizens the opportunity they need to clear roads and sidewalks so that students may safely return to school.


A street in Centreville (Rita Colbert via Facebook)

I appreciate Fairfax County providing a thoughtful and thorough explanation.

I stand by my arguments expressed in my earlier post, but – in hindsight – probably should have expressed them less aggressively (a downside of blogging hastily and attempting to be a bit provocative).

I have little doubt Fairfax County made the decision with the best of intents and with children’s safety in mind, just like Montgomery County did when it decided to open schools today (as an aside: I have yet to see a complaint from a Montgomery County parent – that it opened – in hundreds of comments on related matters).


A street in Fairfax County (location unknown, from Corri Cole via Facebook)

Ultimately, there is a lot of subjectivity involved in decisions whether or not to open school and what street conditions are considered “safe”.


A street in Fairfax County (location unknown, by Michelle Hale via Facebook)

I appreciate everyone’s comments on this matter and think this is fine place to have such discussions. Weather is about so much more than highs and lows, winds, and precipitation. It’s also about how these conditions impact society and the decisions people/organizations make.


Thanks for reading and engaging. Now back to straight weather coverage – until the next controversy, at least

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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