ROCKVILLE, Md. - Winter is far from over but two local school systems are already out of snow days - and it may have something to do with a decrease in what the public will tolerate. After Wednesday's school closures, the Montgomery and Prince George's County School systems have used all of their allotted snow closure days for the year.
Prince George's County has already taken back a planned day off originally scheduled for February 9th. If Montgomery County Schools has to close again, they may also need to adjust their calendar.
Todd Watkins, Director of Transportation for Montgomery County Public Schools, spoke with FOX 5's Annie Yu about the factors involved when it comes to closings school for inclement weather.
Watkins has worked for MCPS for over twenty years and says his department begins watching storms early and sends a field crew out to inspect the actual road conditions once the snow starts to fall. In addition, they monitor weather forecasts and consult with other local resource departments to make the decision.
Yesterday's closures, Watkins said, had to do with the characteristics of the snow. "When we delayed yesterday morning, we were anticipating being able to go to school after two hours," he said. "As we watched the conditions deteriorate over those two hours, the snow continued to fall." While it wasn't much snow, Watkins continued, he said the temperatures continued to drop and the roads were very slippery. He said the road conditions for bus drivers and teen drivers, and the walking conditions for other students, influenced their decision to ultimately close for the day.
Watkins understands the frustrations some parents and caregivers have when closings and delays are made. While he says safety has always been the top priority, the decision making process has evolved over the years based on the public's tolerance level.
"We used to be able to open and operate in more snow than we do now. Our capability to operate hasn't changed but what the public will tolerate has changed. So now we have to delay or close more often than we did before because our customers - our public - just won't tolerate less than that."
Watkins says Montgomery County has used their two allotted snow days for the season. If any more are needed, he says, the school system will have to draw from the three contingency days that are built on to the end of the year. "If we use more than that," Watkins said, "then we have to go into the sacred spring break - which of course none of us want to do."
As of right now, the last day of class for Montgomery County students is still on June 12th.