Weather Cancellation Procedures
Be informed in the case of inclement weather or other emergency situations.
When bad weather or other emergency situations occur, it may be necessary for FCPS to cancel, delay, or close schools early. Parents and students should have a well-communicated plan in place in the event of these emergency situations. Children need to know where to go or what to do if a parent will not be home.
The safety of our students and staff is our number one priority any time a decision must be made regarding school closures and delays during a weather situation. We review information from emergency management and state highway administrators about road conditions, and school personnel also go out and inspect the conditions of roads, sidewalks, and FCPS parking lots and bus lanes.
Due to the speed of updating, the official @FCPSnews Twitter account (with blue checkmark) is generally the first and fastest mode of communication. Other communication channels will be updated as quickly as possible including email, text, website, other social media, and news stations. Please be aware, due to the large volume of emails sent there will likely be a lag between the FCPS Twitter alert and receipt of an email in your inbox.
In the case of emergency for a weather-related closing, delay, or early dismissal, the FCPS website will automatically include an alert at the top of each page with the appropriate information (see sample alert below). This information will remain posted until normal operations have resumed, or you click "Close This Alert" to remove it. If you have closed the alert, a red exclamation mark will remain (highlighted by red circle below) to indicate that the alert is still active.
FCPS tries to make decisions in the evening, taking into account that parents need time to make proper arrangements. But when there is a lot of uncertainty, we wait to get the latest morning forecast. In that case, the superintendent makes the decision of whether to delay or close schools by approximately 4:30 a.m.
FCPS provides information about closings and delays in many ways including:
- Posted to the FCPS Twitter and Facebook pages.
- Posted to www.fcps.edu.
- Email and text messages sent to parents (using the parent contact information listed in weCare@school).
- Email sent to employees (using the employee's FCPS email address).
- Email sent to News You Choose subscribers of Delayed Openings and School Closings.
- Posted on FCPS cable Channel 21 (Cox Communications, Reston Comcast, and Verizon cable customers only).
- Area radio and television stations.
FCPS has a series of closing conditions to help explain how the weather has affected schools and activities.
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.
Why doesn't FCPS close only those portions of the county that are most affected by the weather?
Students in various programs are transported all over the county each day. If only a portion of the school system were to close, students who live in the "closed" area may still need to get to schools that are open, and vice-versa. Buses are used numerous times every day for runs all over the county and a bus housed in a closed portion of the system may still need to be available to serve open schools. There are also many teachers and specialists who work in numerous buildings across the county.
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 D.C. 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.
Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks and plowing roads?
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. 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.
No snow - can we start summer early?
In some years the winter months are very mild and we get little to no snow or bad weather, causing many people to ask if the school year will end earlier. The short answer is no.
Why? As a learning organization, FCPS values the importance of as much instructional time as possible for our students. Virginia law requires school districts to provide 180 days or 990 hours of classroom instruction each school year. FCPS reverts to the 990 hour calendar only if the 180-day requirement is not met because of severe weather conditions or other emergency situations.
Since the 2014-15 school year, the School Board has approved a 180-day calendar. Prior to this, FCPS adopted a 183-day school year calendar with the three extra days to be used for snow and other emergencies. Under this calendar, once FCPS used the three snow days, additional days had to be added to the end of the school year to meet the state requirement.
The current FCPS planned school year exceeds the 990 hour state requirement because of the length of the student day. The additional time (hours) is converted to “days” that can be used in the event of inclement weather. An advantage of the built in hours is that days do not need to be added on at the end of the year, as was done in years past, when too many snow days were used. In 2016, our area had a very significant storm which required the use of most of the additional time built in since FCPS had eight days closed due to weather and a number of late openings.
There is no means for days to be given back at the end of the year because those additional “days” are simply the excess time beyond 990 hours and, if the days were given back, FCPS would fall short of the required 180-day school year. In addition, teacher contracts (mostly 194 days in length) are based on a 7.5 hour day and are tied to the number of school days per year with teacher workdays included.