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County BOE Clarifies Decision Process

December 2nd, 2014 by WCBC Radio

The Allegany County Public School System considers a number of factors when making the decision to delay or close schools. The first consideration is for the safety of students traveling to and from school, including the outside access to school buildings. Adverse weather conditions such as snow and ice, extreme cold temperatures and sustained wind chill temperatures and the vast differences in terrain from one region of the county to the next affect these decisions as well.
ACPS transportation department personnel survey road conditions as early as 3:30 a.m. on mornings of inclement weather, traveling on routes that are representative of some of the critical areas for safe school bus travel. Staff also consults with the National Weather Service out of Pittsburgh, PA, and Sterling, VA, AccuWeather Service information, State Highway weather stations, and other automated weather stations for weather forecasts and updates. While the school system does not require absolute “bare road” conditions to be in session, ACPS personnel regularly consult with County Roads Departments, the State Highway Administration, local municipality road crews, and surrounding counties’ transportation offices to gather the best information available to make a reasonable decision.
On days when road conditions are passable, but extreme cold temperatures present safety concerns, ACPS uses as a baseline for delaying or closing schools for cold temperatures only, air temperature at or below 0° and/or sustained wind chill temperatures of -15° or below. Decisions are made based on current conditions, predicted conditions, how the cold temperatures will affect the operation of school buses, and properly clothed children. However, it is rare that cold temperatures are the only factor being considered when making a decision to delay or close schools.
ACPS policy states that “an emergency closing in the interest of safety for all persons concerned will be announced only after weather forecasts or road conditions indicate this action to be advisable.” The policy continues regarding delays to state “when weather and road conditions appear too dangerous for school bus travel and information and forecasts predict better weather and safe driving conditions may occur, a decision may be made to open school two hours later than usual.” The school system also plans to utilize three-hour delays this year as necessary.
Announcements concerning delays or closures will be posted on the school system’s website, www.acpsmd.org, no later than 5:30 a.m. Following the website update, in this order, will be updates via School Messenger, Facebook and Twitter, Schoolsout.com, 9 News Now, Fox 5, WHAG TV, and ABC 7 and News Channel 8. All local media outlets receive the announcement via School Messenger. Announcements to close schools during an initial two or three-hour delay will be made no later than 8 a.m. Additionally, morning pre-kindergarten classes are always cancelled when schools are operating on a two or three-hour delay. Early dismissal announcements will be made no later than 11 a.m., which will in turn cancel all sessions of afternoon pre-kindergarten.
School closings due to inclement weather may not always automatically cancel after school and evening activities. The Superintendent will consult with the appropriate staff to determine if weather conditions have improved to allow for the activity or event to take place. This decision will most often be made by noon the day of the scheduled activity or event.

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