Wake Ed

January 29, 2014

Wake County school system defends closing schools Tuesday

Wake County school officials say they made the best possible decision based on what turned out to be inaccurate weather projections that said the snow would begin falling in the afternoon.

The Wake County school system’s decision to cancel classes on Tuesday – forcing students to make up the day – is standing out since the snow didn’t hit until late afternoon/early evening.

But as noted in today’s article, the school system is defending the decision that was made to shut down school at a time when other area school systems stuck with early dismissals. Wake, like the other districts, says it made the best possible decision based on what turned out to be inaccurate weather projections that said the snow would begin falling in the afternoon.

“When we made the call, it was based on the projections we had at the time,” said Renee McCoy, a Wake schools’ spokeswoman.

McCoy said the option used in other school districts of sending students home early wasn’t used because of how large Wake is with more than 75,000 bus riders on 950 buses. She said it takes three hours to finish the runs.

Wake uses a three-tier bus system, meaning the same bus may run two or three routes in the morning and afternoon. Since most elementary schools are on the third tier, McCoy said they were worried about the youngest students being on the road when conditions could get hazardous.

“When you look at the big picture, we have no regrets,” McCoy said. “The models at the time predicted snow would begin at noon. We took precautions to protect our students.”

Wake announced the closing shortly after 9:30 p.m. Monday. Stella Shelton, a Wake schools’ spokeswoman, said that it helped give families the most lead time reasonably possible to make decisions they need to make regarding their jobs and childcare.

What’s also being brought up is the fiasco that was Jan. 19, 2005.

On that day more than nine years ago, nearly 3,000 Wake County students wound up spending the night at school because their school buses couldn’t safely get them home. as this 2005 story shows, some bad luck and some bad decisions on a day when school was dismissed early helped produce a massive traffic jam.

“Though roads are now brined, we do not want to bring about a repeat of the 2005 countywide Traffic Jam!” said Stella Shelton, a Wake County schools’ spokeswoman in an email message.

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The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui.

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