Fairfax County's largest teacher organization has voted to censure Superintendent Linton Deck for his failure to close schools early during the Jan. 13 snowstorm--an action the group called "inappropriate and possibly dangerous."
Deck's action left hundreds of children stranded at their schools past 8 p.m., and some failed to reach their homes until almost midnight, said Marilyn Rogers, president of the Fairfax Educators Association, which represents about 6,200 teachers.
Deck could not be reached for comment yesterday, but county officials acknowledged that some students were "scared and hungry" by the long waits for their rides home. Some schools reopened their cafeterias and fed their students dinner before they boarded their buses.
County School Board member Gerald A. Fill said officials "have had more phone calls from parents complaining about the delays in getting their children home than on any other single problem that has come up before the board."
"People are very upset that the superintendent had been so cavalier with the safety of students and teachers," Rogers said.
William S. Howe Jr., director of administrative services for the school system, defended Deck, saying the federal government's sudden early release of its workers--and not the weather--clogged the county's roads and caused most of the delays.
"We have to make the decison to close early by 11 a.m. in order to get the buses on the roads in time," Howe said. "We had already opened two hours late because of the weather and we found a lot of students were just getting in around 11 a.m."
School officials provided conflicting reports on how late students arrived home. School system spokesman William McGinnis said transportation records showed the county's 670 buses had finished their rounds by 8:40 p.m. Howe said, however, said it "was not impossible" that some buses delivered children as late as 11 p.m. to midnight.
Although school administrators said yesterday they had no plans to change existing snow emergency policies, Fill said he will suggest that the school board reexamine its regulations that send high school students home first in bad weather and other emergencies and deliver elementary students last.