Blizzard caused ‘significant’ problems for Fairfax schools

WASHINGTON — Students are finally getting back to normal after a massive blizzard buried the D.C. area.

“People don’t realize how incredibly significant it was and what problems it really created,” says Jeff Platenberg, the Fairfax County Public Schools assistant superintendent for facilities and transportation.

In the aftermath of the blizzard, Platenburg and other school officials routinely drove around the county to check out local roads and sidewalks, ultimately determining that it would not be safe for kids to return to school last week.

“There were vanishing lanes and all of a sudden people were having to swerve over. Two lanes went down to one,” he says. “If we have buses going down roads that have one lane, that’s a problem.”

The school system closed school all last week and opened two hours late on Monday.

“My job isn’t popular this time of year,” he admits.

The school system gets regular feedback from parents and students on both sides: “Telling me ‘Don’t open school. This roadway is impassable,’ to ‘What are you guys thinking? Are you crazy? Why aren’t you opening school?’”

Platenberg praises the Virginia Department of Transportation and residents who helped dig out their neighborhoods.

More than 100,000 Fairfax County students walk to their bus stops; about 43,000 walk to school. He says they made the decisions to close or delay school to keep those kids safe.

The 2015-2016 school calendar has the equivalent of 13 snow days built into it, according to John Torre, a spokesman for Fairfax County schools. So far, they’ve used seven.

There’s an upcoming two-hour delay, on March 1, for the presidential primary. That brings the remaining time to a little less than six snow days left.

The school system is on track to end the school year as scheduled June 23.

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