Prince William Co. Schools defends, then apologizes for snow response

While some D.C. area school districts were apologizing for what happened when classes weren't canceled during a snowstorm Tuesday that delivered more snow than they originally thought, Prince William County, Virginia schools had a different message for parents: Check the absence policy. At least, that was their initial reaction.

In a statement posted on their Facebook page around 11 a.m., Prince William County Schools referred parents to the policy, which was sent out at the beginning of the school year, and allows them to decide to keep their kids home if they feel conditions are unsafe. Here's that first post in its entirety:

"There seems to be some confusion over the excused absence policy. Please refer to the Inclement Weather Letter sent home in September and posted to pwcs.edu. Here is an excerpt: "If schools are open, but you consider local roads and sidewalks unsafe for travel, you have the option of not sending your child(ren) to school. Students will receive an excused absence and will not be penalized academically, though they are expected to make up all assignments."

Then, about two hours later, they posted another statement that sent a different message of explanation. Here's the second message:

"We apologize for the weather-related complications this morning. Multiple PWCS staff were on duty monitoring the weather and roads throughout the night and into the early-morning hours. Based upon this information, we decided to keep schools open. At that point in time, multiple weather forecasts only called for a small accumulation of snow—up to one inch. The national weather forecast changed at 7:01 a.m. to 2–4 inches of snow, and again at 9:03 a.m. bringing the forecast up to 4–6 inches. Unfortunately, this was logistically too late to reverse course on the decision.

In order to provide SACC services and to give the needed time to VDOT and our own PWCS crews to plow roads and parking lots, there won't be an early release. The School Division will close on-time; however, all after school and evening activities are canceled including Night School, GED, and Adult Education classes. SACC will close at 5 p.m.

Thank you for your patience. We sincerely apologize for the difficulties caused by the weather this morning."


The second statement fell much more in line with that from other school systems like Fairfax County Public Schools, which apologized for the situation after many parents and students took to social media to express their outrage over the situation.

Across Prince William County on Tuesday morning, there were a total of 171 service calls to authorities that were related to a crash, and of that total, 70 were noted but did not receive a police response. The remaining 101 crashes did result in a police response, and 12 of those accidents involved a school bus.

Just before 5 p.m., Prince William County Public Schools posted a third message about how they'll be monitoring conditions overnight ahead of a decision for Wednesday morning:

"Tonight's forecast is calling for freezing temperatures — be on alert early Wednesday morning for possible schedule changes.

With ice on roads and sidewalks we will be closely monitoring the weather and road conditions throughout the night and early morning. Safety is always the first priority in weather-related decisions and we appreciate your concern and feedback today. With Prince William County covering 348 square miles, conditions and weather forecasts, may not necessarily reflect what you see in any given area of the county. If schools are open, but you consider local roads and sidewalks unsafe for travel, you may choose not to send your child(ren) to school. Students will receive an excused absence and will not be penalized academically, though they are expected to make up all assignments.

Closing or delay decisions are targeted for announcement by 5 a.m. When there are changes to the regular schedule we let families know as soon as possible through all our communications outlets including websites, social media, email, and text messages."


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