The chairman of Prince William’s Board of County Supervisors said last week that he was frustrated with how long public schools were closed in his locality as a result of the recent snowstorm.
Students have been out of school for weather-related reasons since Jan. 21 and will miss an additional day Monday for a teacher work day. They are expected to return to classes Tuesday, Prince William schools spokesman Phil Kavits said last week.
But that makes for an awfully long time for classes to have been canceled, said Corey A. Stewart (R), who chairs the Board of County Supervisors, calling the issue the main negative effect of the storm that pummeled the Washington area Jan. 22 and 23.
“I mean, it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Stewart said that school administrators need to put on their “big-boy pants” and stop closing schools so often.
The school division aims to make sure that students are safe when getting to classes, he said. But, he added, “There’s no such thing as zero risk.”
And, Stewart said, if parents had to go back to work and leave children home alone, additional safety risks could have resulted. He said this issue is a pet peeve of his and also was a concern among some parents.
If the schools really did need to be closed all of last week, Stewart asked, why didn’t administrators announce that plan earlier, so families could make plans?
Kavits said school decision-makers’ main focus was on making sure students and staff members weren’t put in an unsafe situation.
“That is the number one concern that drives everyone,” he said.
Even after some school grounds were cleared of snow and main roads were made passable, “numerous” sidewalks and some private roads were still covered, Kavits said.
Kavits praised the work of school facilities staff members who had been working steadily since Jan. 23 to get buildings and grounds back to normal.
As for Monday, he said that the work day is necessary for getting grades and report cards finished for this school year’s second grading period.
“The teachers really need the time,” Kavits said.
In other snow matters, Stewart spoke highly of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s work in ridding county streets of snow piles that ranged from 18
“I was really impressed with VDOT overall and the job they did with clearing the roads,” Stewart said.
Despite that work, some transportation-related crashes occurred during the storm.
Between about 2:30 p.m. Jan. 22 and 9 p.m. Monday, Prince William police responded to 66 wrecks that resulted in injuries or a vehicle not being able to be moved, Officer Nathan J. Probus said.
During that time, officers also responded to 123 calls for motorist assistance and 136 calls for traffic obstructions, Probus said, which included abandoned cars, fallen trees, stoplights not working and water blocking roads.
He emphasized that the numbers were rough estimates and that some incidents could have gone unreported. Police were concentrating their efforts on the most significant cases during the snowstorm, he said.
Three local men — a 40-year-old from Haymarket, a 73-year-old from Woodbridge and a 69-year-old Gainesville resident — died after shoveling snow, Probus said. But he emphasized that there has been no official determination that the physical activity caused the deaths.
Another man found himself handsomely rewarded after working in the snow in Prince William.
Gerald Fincham, a snowplow driver from Hughesville, Md., took a break from his task Monday to buy a drink at a Food Lion in Woodbridge. He also bought a scratch-off Virginia Lottery ticket.
He won the $225,000 top prize in the “Pirate’s Treasure” game, lottery officials announced Thursday.
Hunley is a freelance writer.