Wake County families found out much earlier Thursday than on the day before that schools would remain closed Friday for the fourth day in a row.
Also not in class Friday are students in the public school systems of Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Franklin counties and Chapel Hill-Carrboro.
After a day when parents complained about the late notice, Wake made the announcement at 5:28 p.m. Thursday. The system cited icy secondary roads that would be unsafe for school buses, as well as concern that road conditions could slow down buses and lengthen students’ waits outside in near-zero temperatures.
Wake announced Thursday’s closure at 9:49 p.m. Wednesday – three to four hours later than surrounding school systems’ announcements. Wake school officials said the difference in weather conditions between the two days allowed the earlier announcement Thursday.
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“The primary difference between yesterday and today was that yesterday after the ice and snow started to melt, they sent people to check out all the roads again,” said Tim Simmons, a Wake County schools spokesman. “Today there was no need to do that because it was so cold. Whatever the crews saw this morning wouldn’t change.”
Triangle schools have been closed since Tuesday because of snow and dangerous road conditions caused by frigid temperatures and black ice.
Simmons said a decision will be made Friday whether year-round students will go to school Saturday to make up Tuesday’s snow day.
The online praise from parents and students about Thursday’s early announcement was far different than the angry responses the day before.
“Thank you so much,” tweeted the yearbook staff at Broughton High School in Raleigh.
Wake school transportation officials traveled around the county Thursday morning, including checking the conditions in school parking lots. Similar checks were made Wednesday evening out of “a small hope” of being able to reopen schools Thursday on a delay, according to a district statement.
“We really didn’t want to cancel classes unless we had to,” Simmons said of Wednesday’s decision.
In contrast, Durham schools decided by 6 p.m. Wednesday to close after staff finished driving throughout the district late into the afternoon.
The transportation supervisor “saw roads that were still hazardous even before the nighttime frigid temperatures, and felt another full day’s closure was the safest course of action,” said Chrissy Pearson, a Durham schools spokeswoman.
Families on hold
On social media Wednesday, Wake gave differing times for when an announcement would be made about Thursday’s school situation: by 9 p.m. on Facebook and by 9:30 p.m. on Twitter.
As the evening wore on, parents and students went online to accuse the district of being inconsiderate of families. One of those parents was Gwin Westenbarger, an Apex mother of two daughters.
Westenbarger said that waiting until late Wednesday complicated the decisions of parents who had to scramble to make child care arrangements. With all the surrounding districts having announced early, Wake should have followed suit, she said.
“This is not their first rodeo,” she said in an interview. “They know and, not only that, you’ve got kids waiting until 10 o’clock at night to find out if they have to get up at 5:30. It should be called by 9 o’clock.”
A #BeforeWCPSSDecides hashtag was created on Twitter with various humorous comments made about what would happen before Wake finally announced its decision.
“I’ll see Fifty Shades of Grey with my parents before WCPSS decides,” Nate Cryan, a junior at Panther Creek High School in Cary, tweeted Wednesday night.