Nearly snow-free winter leaves school officials scratching their heads

WASHINGTON — The area’s warm weather means that some school systems haven’t had a single snow day and that has the chair of at least one school board asking, “What do we do now?”

In Prince William County, Virginia, School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers said up to 12 days for inclement weather or other emergencies were built in to the school calendar. Because no snow days have been used, Sawyers said, he’s asked Dr. Steven Walts, superintendent of the school system, for an update on the school calendar policy.

Sawyers said the update is scheduled for April 5.

Why not get that briefing sooner?

“Winter’s not over yet!” he said. “To have a presentation to the board in early April would pretty much mean most of winter is behind us,” said Sawyers.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, school department spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala explained four snow days are built into the county’s school calendar each year.

Like Prince William County, Montgomery County hasn’t used a single snow day — so far. That means no change to the school calendar: “The school year is scheduled to end on Friday, June 16, and that is the plan.”

While it’s not likely at this point that schools will have to close for more than four days, Onijala explained that if Montgomery County were to exceed the number of days set aside in case of weather emergencies, “then we start having conversations about extending the school year or applying for a waiver.”

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, the current school calendar sets the last day of school as Friday, June 9 and any snow makeup days would be added to the end of the year, said Lynn McCawley, senior public information specialist for the school system.

“We use them as we need them,” said McCawley.

Looking at the records from years past, McCawley noted that the last time the school system had only one snow day was in the 2007-2008 school year. In contrast, in the 2009-2010 academic year, the school system used nine.

In Montgomery County, Onijala was asked whether she’s disappointed the school system hasn’t had a snow day this year.

“You know, everyone loves a good snow day,” she said, “but as long as we can have kids in our schools learning, that’s the best outcome for everyone.”

She added that even on many days when classes are canceled and teachers and students stay home, administrative staff is expected to show up. On many snow days in the past, “We were always here!” she said, laughing.

Onijala said that if parents have questions about the school calendar, they can always check the MCPS website or reach out to the public information office.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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