ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Inside school closure procedures

MCPS has recently been faced with weather conditions that required them to close schools due to safety concerns. At the same time, students and parents wonder how the decision is made.

The school closure process is determined by a team of road inspectors and researchers in MCPS as well as the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) at about 3 a.m.. Sophomore class administrator Dr. Ira Thomas said, “It is a meticulous process.”

During these road safety examinations, road inspectors physically drive out to different areas of the county and test the road conditions by driving and walking on the pavement.

They inspect major roads as well as the branching ones. Thomas said, “They think about secondary and tertiary roads as well as the major arteries.”

Researchers back in the MCPS offices use online sources to predict the conditions for later in the day while the inspectors are out testing roads. “Information about the weather is gathered from sources, including The National Weather Service, Accu-Weather [and] the news media,” MCPS said on their website.

After these checks and gathering of information, the MCDOT makes a recommendation to the Chief Operation Officer, who then relays a recommendation to the superintendent Dr. Jack Smith.

Dr. Smith makes his decision based upon the recommendation given to him. The decision is released via the MCPS website, Alert MCPS, TV, Twitter, telephone and local radio stations.

There are countless factors that get considered when making the decision, such as student and teacher commutes to and from school, road visibility and required education days. However, safety always comes above everything else.

Thomas said, “Safety is always at the core.”

Principal Kimberly Boldon also said, “[the decision] always comes back to safety.”

One misconception about this process is that the county is pressured by neighboring counties to close. However, sophomore Illan Linshitz said, “I do not believe [that MCPS is pressured by neighboring counties].”

Another misconception is that the process is only run by one person, or as junior Sana Yaqub said, “[The] man in charge of the county.”

This is not the case, as there is a whole staff to make the decision.

In choosing to close school, the county can do one of three things. They can completely close offices, run a two-hour delay or dismiss students early.

These closures can completely close offices for all staff and students or they can affect only students and teachers.

A misconception that both students and parents have is that the decision is wrong solely because conditions are perfect in their area. Linshitz said, “People could easily drive [on Wednesday].”

Though some decisions seem wrong, Montgomery County is a large county and as such, MCPS must consider it as a whole.

In the end, these decisions are made with safety in mind. “MCPS is as careful as they possibly can be, and [they are always] trying to make the most responsible decision,” Boldon said.

 

Patrick Liu

Staff Writer

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