What are the possible choices for weather closings?
FCPS has several schedules set up to deal with inclement weather; these are put into effect when conditions threaten the safety of children who are walking or riding school buses to schools. These schedules are: (1) Keep schools closed. (2) Open two hours late. (3) Close two hours early. The procedures used in school closings are detailed at the inclement weather plans page.
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) sends out emergency messages that include conditions, or additional information that will let employees know how the decision impacts them as an employee. The conditions, numbered 1 through 8, will let employees know if school and central offices are closed, opening late, or closing early, or the condition number will provide information about afternoon and evening activities, and Saturday and Sunday activities as well. The conditions 1-9 provide guidance to FCPS employees and do not impact students. Radio and television stations will continue to report the details on closings or delays as they have in the past. Find out more.
How do I find out if facilities are open?
The lack of an emergency message means facilities are open normally. Unless there is an announcement posted on the FCPS emergency announcements web site ( www.fcps.edu/news/emerg.shtml ), and cable channel 21, FCPS facilities are operating on a normal schedule.
How do I find out if a particular event is canceled or postponed due to inclement weather?
The FCPS emergency announcement page will carry some level of detail for countywide programs such as adult education, field trips, and before and after school programs. For other events, contact the event organizer. Many have blanket policies such as canceling an activity if schools are closed or delayed.
How is the School-Age Child Care (SACC) program affected by closings and delays?
When schools are closed for the day, extended day care and school-age child care centers will be closed all day. When schools are opened two hours late, extended day care and school-age child care centers will be open by 7 a.m. . When schools are closed early due to worsening weather conditions during the day, extended day care and school-age child care centers will operate from the time school closes until 6:15 p.m. whenever possible. Parents may be required to arrange for an early pickup when necessary.
How is the decision made to close schools?
Decisions on whether to close our schools are not taken lightly. All decisions take the safety of all FCPS children into account. Complete details on the decision-making process have been posted.
We rely on information from emergency management and state highway administrators about conditions for all roads—not just major highways. FCPS personnel assigned to different regions of the county go out and inspect the conditions of roads, sidewalks and FCPS parking lots and bus lanes. The Superintendent also confers with other area school systems before announcing her decision.
To view a video clip that explains school closings:
When forecasters call for bad weather, the FCPS team goes into action to collect information and make a decision about whether to delay or close schools. This video explains and answers some common questions. Play (3:15)
Why aren't schedule change announcements made sooner?
FCPS' goal is to announce school closings and delayed openings by 5 a.m. We try to make a closing or late opening decision as early as possible. The timing of the decision remains secondary, however, to the safety issues.
FCPS administrators rely on information from emergency management and state highway administrators about conditions for all roads. Our safety office also communicates with the national weather service to receive up-to-the-minute weather forecasts. Storm tracks can change at any time, significantly affecting the outcome on our area. For this reason, our administrators usually wait until early in the morning to see what really does occur instead of making a decision based upon a forecast.
Do you understand how inconvenient it is to arrange child care at the last minute?
Yes, we do! Parents are urged to make arrangements now for the care of their children when schedule changes are made (and to provide for the rare situation when it is necessary to close an individual school because of a power failure or other circumstances). Children should know where to go if a parent will not be home.
Why doesn't FCPS close only those portions of the county that are most affected by the weather?
This issue has been studied many times. There are many reasons why closing portions of the school system is not feasible. Among them:
Why do schools in states with more snowfall lose fewer days due to inclement weather?
Northern states have more snow clearing capability because of higher average snowfalls making them better equipped to deal quickly with winter weather. Since the DC metropolitan area seldom gets significant amounts of snow, it takes a little longer for the roadways to be cleared and made safe to transport our children.
Why does it take so long to get schools back to a normal operating schedule following a weather event?
School personnel work diligently to reopen schools as quickly as possible. The safety of our students is our first consideration. School parking lots and drives must be cleared. Buses have to be dug out. Streets and sidewalks in the county need to be cleared sufficiently to allow for bus access and for the safety of student walkers.
Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks?
It is the responsibility of each individual building custodian to clear the sidewalks in front of the school. It is the responsibility of homeowners and businesses to clear the sidewalks in front of their properties.
Who is responsible for plowing roads?
All roads, including major roads and neighborhood streets, are maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). To report unsafe conditions call the VDOT Northern Virginia District Office at 703-383-VDOT.
Can I elect to keep my child home even if schools are open? Will this be an excused absence?
Parents may decide to keep their children home. Parents need to contact their children's schools to determine if the absence will be excused.
Are announcements made on days that school is not in session, including weekends and student holidays?
FCPS facilities are in use even when school is not in session. An announcement is made any time facilities are not available on normal schedules. This includes weekends and student holidays. If no announcement is made, then facilities are operating on normal schedules.
January 26, 2016