MCPS Leaders Explain Decision To Cancel Wednesday Classes

Weather closure means students will stay in school for one additional day in June


Published:

VIA MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Montgomery County students will have to stay in classes one more day into June following Wednesday’s decision to close schools amid concerns about slick sidewalks and roadways.

Some parents on social media have questioned the closures, wondering what led Montgomery County Public Schools to call a snow day, when much of the county seemed to escape the ice storm that hit parts of the region.

MCPS spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said many school districts in the region, including Montgomery County, announced a two-hour delay early this morning as officials watched the unfolding weather situation.

MCPS officials generally announce closures by 7 a.m., and as that time approached, they were hearing that surrounding jurisdictions were experiencing icy conditions. School board member Jill Ortman-Fouse described the evaluation process in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“As our 7 a.m. school closure decision grew closer, roads in the northern and western parts of the county were beginning to freeze in localized areas. In addition, concrete driveways and sidewalks were icy in many parts of the county, and bus windshields at several depots had frozen over,” she wrote. “These icing conditions, combined with the continued forecast for additional icing, gave us concern that conditions could worsen.”

The safety of teachers and other staff members traveling from other jurisdictions also factored into the decision, Onijala and Ortman-Fouse reported.

“When you start talking about ice, the danger level goes up, because it’s easier to shove snow, but ice is a whole lot messier,” Onijala said.

County school officials could face a similar decision on Thursday morning, with the possibility that roadways could refreeze overnight.

In her Facebook post, Ortman-Fouse said the suggestion frequently mentioned by parents that schools should remain open in areas of the county less affected by winter weather isn’t workable because putting students on different academic calendars could create a “host of unintended consequences.” 

Onijala confirmed that because of Wednesday’s closure, the MCPS school year will be extended by one day to June 13. Previously, classes were set to wrap up June 12.

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith last month laid out the schedule for making up instructional days lost to winter weather closures, announcing that the school system would extend the year to June 15 if necessary. As a last resort, the school system would shorten spring break, he said.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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