xml:space="preserve">

What is the process for Carroll County Public Schools when inclement weather comes to the area?

After a school bus collided with another on Wednesday morning, and unexpected snow squalls that severely delayed others, many took to social media with questions. The Times sought out to answer some of them.

Advertisement

Who makes the call and when?

The ultimate decision on whether to close or delay the opening of schools is up to schools Superintendent Steve Lockard. The deadline to make that decision is 6 a.m.

In some cases, the school system might declare a two-hour delay with re-evaluation, and the deadline for re-evaluation is 7 a.m.

First thing in the morning, starting at about 3 a.m., members of Transportation Services start driving on the roads. Transportation Services then makes a recommendation to the superintendent on whether to close.

On Wednesday, school buses for the high schools and three elementary schools were already on the road by the time the National Weather Service issued a squall warning, Lockard said during the Board of Education meeting Wednesday night. The weather service announced the squall warning at about 7:30 a.m.

He said that while Wednesday’s situation was somewhat unique, that didn’t mean they shouldn’t consider improvements to processes and practices. Staff would take time in coming days to debrief and consider the “considerable” amount of feedback from the community, Lockard said.

More information about the inclement weather policy is available at on carrollk12.org under “Operations” Transportation Services,” “Inclement Weather" and “FAQ."

Could the school system’s decision be reversed?

According to Transportation Services, the snow squalls were not predicted by any of its three weather sources, including the National Weather Service and a private forecaster.

The squalls blew through a little after 8 a.m., creating whiteout conditions in some places and hazards for drivers.

The school system issued a later announcement that some buses were severely delayed because of the squalls, and if families chose to keep students home, they wouldn’t be penalized for the absence.

“Due to an unanticipated snow squall in some parts of the county, some buses may be delayed in picking up students this morning,” CCPS said in a message posted on its website and delivered to parents via automated phone call.

CCPS spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said the system was reporting 37% absenteeism Wednesday, while the average rate is 5% or less.

Hardesty said that once the decision has been made, students start walking to bus stops and parents start heading to work. The uncertainty of changing the decision creates hazards and uncertainty of its own.

If CCPS makes the decision to close schools early, a decision to close three hours early will be made by 10 a.m., a decision to close two hours early will be made by 11 a.m., or a decision to close one hour early will be made by noon. The school system will then notify families and news sources.

Has the county considered splitting into weather zones?

Yes, the county has considered it before.

Advertisement

Weather zones allow different zones of schools to make different closing/delay decisions within a county. They exist in some school systems in Maryland.

A compete report, including diagrams, on weather zones is available on carrollk12.org under “Operations” Transportation Services,” “Inclement Weather" and “Weather Zone Report.”

Hardesty said the most significant reason that CCPS does not have weather zones is that the feeder patterns are not “clean" and that many students attend regional programs.

With weather zones, regional programs like special education programs or the Carroll County Career and Technology Center could have part of the population expected to attend while another portion is closed.

A weather zone in Carroll would likely run along the northern part of the county near the Pennsylvania border and include Manchester Valley, Winters Mill and Francis Scott Key high schools, according to the report. Potentially, 40% of the high school students in the county would not attend and about 60% would attend school on an inclement weather day affecting just that zone.

Because these schools do not have a “pure” feeder system, some of the feeder schools would be within the weather zone, while others would not. This could mean school could be cancelled for some siblings in a household and not for others.

“This situation could cause a liability issue for the school system if the bus were to have an accident traveling on a road closed for one sibling and open for the other sibling,” according to the report.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement