WTOP Traffic Center: As summer wanes, schools start, adjust your commuting schedules and expectations

The dog days of summer are fading away. Congress will soon reassemble. Kids from all around the D.C. area are making their way back to school. Parents will soon see early mornings full of packing lunches and getting out the door at the speed of light.

Students in Virginia’s Fredericksburg City and Culpeper, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange, Warren, King George go back to class Monday. Students in Rappahannock, Fauquier and Frederick counties in Virginia also head back later this week.

Students in Winchester, Virginia, and Shenandoah County went back to school last week.

All commuters — whether by car, Metro, bus — should gear up for another season of busy D.C.-area roadways as schools start back up again.

WTOP Traffic reporter Reada Kessler said that, as usual, commuters should foresee traffic to pick up after Labor Day. (That’s not to say that the D.C. area has seen a smooth-sailing summer commute either, she said.)

Maryland students return to class after Labor Day.

WTOP’s Bob Marbourg said that the end of summer and back-to-school season always means more vehicles on the move.

Kessler points out that in Montgomery County, Maryland, Interstate 270 always gets significantly busier as the school year starts.

WTOP Traffic’s Jack Taylor pointed out that with Congress in session, Interstate 395 also will see more volume on the roads.

Even so, traffic reporters had a hard time pinpointing an “exact location” where commutes might get sticky. Such is traffic.

“The only variable over which the individual has any control is how early in the morning they have to start in order to arrive on time,” Marbourg said. “At the end of the day, the variable over which there is little control is how late one arrives home.”

Marbourg’s tip: Adjust your schedules and your expectations, and do this over the next several weeks.

He said the most important thing for commuters is to be aware of school buses and students waiting at or walking toward bus stops and students walking to and from school.

“Drivers impatiently taking shortcuts through neighborhoods and passing through school zones must be vigilant and considerate,” Marbourg said.

Ellen Kamilakis with the Virginia Department of Transportation reiterated Marbourg’s point, adding that Fairfax County has one of the largest school bus fleets in the country.

“Never pass a school bus. Remember, once they exit the bus, children turn into pedestrians,” Kamilakis said.

School start dates in the region:

Here’s a complete list of when students in the D.C.-area hit the books again.


  • Aug. 12 — Fredericksburg City and Culpeper, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange, Warren and King George counties
  • Aug. 14 — Rappahannock and Fauquier counties
  • Aug. 15 — Frederick County
  • Aug. 19 — Jefferson County, West Virginia.
  • Aug. 19 — Manassas City
  • Aug. 20 — Clarke County
  • Aug. 22 — Loudoun County
  • Aug. 26 — Manassas Park, and Fairfax and Prince William counties
  • Sept. 3 — Arlington Public Schools


  • Aug. 26 — D.C. Public Schools


  • Sept. 3 — Charles, St. Mary’s, Prince George’s, Calvert, Montgomery, Howard, Frederick, Washington, Carroll, Anne Arundel (grades 1-5, 6, 9 only)* and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City.
  • *In Anne Arundel County, all other grades go back to school on Sept. 4.
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