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Schools Question Whether to Delay or Close School When Winter Weather Hits

When snow hits the area, that puts local school transportation officials on guard whether they need to delay or close schools, but the answer to that question is not as simple as you'd think.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, MD - The Four State has had it's share of minor snow events so far this winter, and schools all across the area have had delays or even some school closings.

Students wish for it, teachers sometimes want it, and parents need to know it, whether when the flakes fly, if school is going to be delayed or closed.  But sometimes it's not a decision that comes easy.

Barbara Scotto, Washington County Public Schools Transporation Director says, "Lately, timing has been everything. I would love it if it would start snowing in the middle of the night and we already had it on the ground when we got up, but we call ourselves snow chasers because frequently we're out there driving around a lot waiting for it to happen."

But there has been some concern from parents when Washington County has placed schools on a 2 Hour Delay or even closed them this year.

"Our goal is to get it by 5:30 a.m., but if we're 5:35 a.m. and we've made the absolute safest decision possible, then that may be the case sometimes", Scotto adds.

Washington County Public Schools Transportation Department's five person team is out and about early when the snow falls, assessing the roads throughout the entire county, and they're asking parents to understand a few things during winter weather.

Scotto says, "I'd ask them to understand the process that we go through, and then trying to understand the timing of these events. You can have a weather forecast from three or four different services and local TV networks and they all can vary just a little bit, but mother nature can do things to us like drop the temperature five to six degrees at daybreak and it changes the whole game, and even then with daybreak happening closer to 7:00 a.m. we're already out there and in motion and we have to take that into consideration when we make our decision."

So, the bottom line to it all is when Mother Nature wants to bring us accumulating snow, County Administrators don't want to make a snap decision whether to keep your child in the classroom or not.

Washington County Public Schools is now offering text messaging as an option for parents and student to receive emergency communications, including school closings and delays.

To sign up for this free service, click here to go to Washington County Public Schools School Closings and Delays webpage.

Since the 2001-2002 School Year, Washington County Public Schools has implemented two specific weather zones.  The two zones are the Hancock Weather Zone and the Cascade Weather Zone.  These areas typically experience greater inclement weather than the majority of the county. These zones may be delayed or closed from the rest of the county schools.

The Cascade Weather Zone is defined as being the attendance area for: Cascade Elementary School.  Students who live in the Cascade Elementary attendance area and attend Cascade Elementary, Smithsburg Middle or Smithsburg High School will follow any schedule changes that apply to the Cascade Zone.  Students who live in the Old Forge Elementary, Smithsburg Elementary and Greenbrier Elementary attendance areas and attend one of these schools or Smithsburg Middle and/or High School are not included in the Cascade Zone.

The Hancock Weather Zone is defined as being the attendance area for Hancock Elementary School and Hancock Middle/Senior High School.

Stay with the WHAG Weather team with winter and severe weather hits the area, we'll keep you informed as these events roll though on their social media platforms as well as Your4State.com.

Meteorologist Bryan Tolle:  Facebook / Twitter
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