Fairfax Co. schools decision-maker discusses students’ safety, closings pushback

"It's all about student safety."

Sarah Beth Hensley | November 15, 2014 12:35 am

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WASHINGTON — Fairfax County Public School’s chief operating officer, who has the tough job of deciding when the schools system will be open or closed because of weather, is looking at the forecast closely as winter weather approaches Wednesday.

Jeff Platenberg says student safety is his primary concern when determining whether Fairfax County schools will be open.

Fairfax County planned for three inclement weather days this year and has already exceeded that number. The students will have to go to school on Presidents Day and a previously scheduled student holiday in April to make up for the snow days.

“My job really isn’t to look at that calendar [of snow days], my job is to look at the road conditions and whether or not it’s adequate for our students to arrive safely,” Platenberg says.

The school system has come under fire for the amount of closings this year. While Platenberg says he appreciates the feedback from people who disagree with his decisions, he says the it’s “all about student safety.”

“Although I’m not very popular on the social media, and I might really want a little more loving, the reality is that some people let me know exactly what they think and I do take that into consideration with every decision,” he says.

Fairfax County encompasses approximately 400 square miles and the weather can vary significantly through different parts of the county, but Platenberg says a zoning system that calls off certain parts of the county instead of others, would not be a good option.

“When you really get into the details, it’s a lot more complicated than at first blush,” Platenberg says, adding that that people live, work and go to school in different parts of the county.

For more information about how Fairfax County makes the decision to close schools, visit the Fairfax County Public Schools’ website.

Listen to the entire interview with Platenberg to the right.

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