Education

Why can’t Wake schools reopen? Blame northern & eastern Wake

Icy road conditions and sliding cars on New Leesville Road

Cars struggled to make their way up an icy New Leesville Road Sunday, January 8, 2017 in Raleigh, N.C.
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Cars struggled to make their way up an icy New Leesville Road Sunday, January 8, 2017 in Raleigh, N.C.

Icy roads in some parts of Wake County will keep schools closed for a third straight day Wednesday – bringing joy to many students but exasperation to some parents. The closing is particularly drawing complaints from families in areas such as western Wake that saw little snow or ice last weekend.

Wake school officials respond that more than half of the district’s 177 schools still aren’t accessible because of ice on secondary roads and on school campuses. The worst problems are in the northern and eastern parts of the county.

Schools also will remain closed Wednesday in the Durham, Johnston, Orange, Chatham and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school systems.

“Thanks for another day of fun in the snow,” Apex parent Robbie Houck tweeted Wake officials. “I’m confused because most of the roads are completely dry. No snow. No ice.”

Some Wake parents said it’s time to break up North Carolina’s largest school system, which also is the 15th largest school system in the nation.

“DO YOU GUYS EVEN TRY TO CLEAN THE LOTS??? DISTRICTS...WE NEED TO SPLIT THE SCHOOL SYSTEM UP INTO DISTRICTS..NORTH SOUTH EAST WEST,” Apex parent Ken Vehslage tweeted to Wake.

Wake school officials took the complaints in stride Tuesday, telling families after the 3:44 p.m. announcement that they wanted to give parents enough notice to plan for Wednesday.

“Can’t know how much will melt by morning,” Wake tweeted to an upset Apex parent. “Wanted to make a call ASAP so parents can arrange childcare.”

Families in the areas that didn’t have as much snow have been clamoring for Wake to partially reopen. But school officials say that is not an option when students and staff don’t necessarily go to school or work near where they live. Thousands of Wake students attend magnet schools.

Raleigh resident Scott Peterson took advantage of icy conditions and went skating down Cape Charles Drive Sunday, January 8, 2017.

“When one area of the county is affected, it does affect the entire county,” said Lisa Luten, a Wake schools spokeswoman. “That area isn’t just pulling students from their base schools but the entire county. That applies to staff too.”

School facilities staff have been out at schools since Sunday spreading salt and plowing carpool and bus lanes, according to Luten.

She said school custodial staff members also have been working to clear walkways on campuses.

School transportation staff are also checking the secondary roads to see whether it’s safe for school buses to travel. Transportation staff are on the lookout for shaded areas where overhanging trees have delayed melting of ice, according to Luten.

“What’s important for people to remember is that our buses are spending a lot of time on secondary roads early in the morning before the temperatures rise,” Luten said.

Cars struggled to make their way up an icy New Leesville Road Sunday, January 8, 2017 in Raleigh, N.C.

The Orange County school system made an early decision to keep schools closed Wednesday.

“The parking lots and many of the secondary roads are still covered in ice,” said Seth Stephens, an Orange County schools spokesman. “Our maintenance will continue to work to get the lots cleared.”

By mid-Tuesday afternoon, other Triangle schools also announced that schools would remain closed. Officials are hoping that temperatures expected to rise into the 50s on Wednesday will lead to melting of ice and allow schools to reopen Thursday.

“With the higher temperature projections, and continuing work to clear streets and schools, we anticipate driving conditions to improve Thursday allowing safer transportation for students to and from school,” Chatham County school officials said in that system’s announcement.

Back in Wake, Luten noted that not all of the problem areas are confined to schools in the far northern and eastern parts of the county. For example, she said, all the secondary roads leading to Enloe High School in East Raleigh are icy and half of the Rand Road Elementary School campus in Garner isn’t accessible.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

Snow makeup days

Some Triangle school systems have announced when students will make up this week’s snow days.

Wake County

▪ Year-round on tracks 1, 2 and 3: Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and April 1

▪ Traditional calendar: Jan. 27, Feb. 20, March 31

▪ Modified-calendar: Feb. 20, March 13-14

▪ Wake STEM Early College: Feb. 20, March 31, May 22

▪ The two single-gender leadership academies: Feb. 21 (No days required for Tuesday and Wednesday.)

▪ Vernon Malone College and Career Academy and the Wake Early College of Health and Sciences: March 13 and April 13 (No makeup required for Wednesday.)

Durham County

▪ Traditional calendar: Jan. 23, March 27 and April 17

▪ City of Medicine Academy: Feb. 10, March 20 and April 17

▪ Middle College High School: March 6, March 17 and April 17

▪ J.D. Clement Early College High School: March 10, April 17 and May 24

▪ New Tech High School: March 17, April 17 and May 24

▪ Year-round: March 27-29

Chapel Hill-Carrboro

▪ All students on Jan. 23, March 24 and April 3.

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