The following represent some of the most frequently asked questions (and answers) about school closings and delays.
> How do you decide? Who makes these decisions?
> When are decisions made?
> Why aren't announcements made sooner?
> How are field trips, after school activities and Extended Day affected by closings and delays?
> Do you understand how inconvenient it is to arrange childcare at the last minute?
> Why doesn't APS close schools in only those portions of the county that are most affected?
> Why do schools in states with more snowfall lose fewer days due to inclement weather?
> How do I find out if schools are open?
> Is there an announcement when there ISN'T a delay or closing?
How do you decide? Who makes these decisions?
APS staff confer with regional representatives from the National Weather Service, the Virginia Department of Transportation, Arlington Department of Environmental Services (Public Works), and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (METRO), local and regional police, other federal and local agencies, and neighboring school systems. In addition, school bus transportation and operations staff members drive into neighborhoods and around schools to obtain firsthand information on current conditions of the roads, bus stops and parking lots. Once all of this information is gathered, staff calls to brief the Superintendent who makes the final decision.
When are decisions made?
We make every effort to announce decisions to close schools or have a two-hour delayed opening no later than 6 a.m. Decisions about early dismissal are normally announced by 11:30 a.m. Once a decision is made, staff notifies local media outlets and updates our APS Web page, Comcast Channel 70 and Verizon FIOS Channel 41, and the APS hot line. E-mail messages are sent out to APS School Talk subscribers.
Why aren't announcements made sooner?
Many of us frequently joke about local weather forecasters "getting it wrong," but the truth of the matter is that weather conditions can change quickly between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. So, we wait until morning to make sure that what was predicted is accurate. This allows us every opportunity to keep schools open (if possible) and operate under a normal schedule.
How are field trips, after school activities and Extended Day affected by closings and delays?
When schools are closed, all buildings are closed, and all school activities are canceled unless otherwise announced. Administrative offices usually remain open.
When school opening is delayed, field trips are cancelled. Breakfast is not served. The Extended Day program also opens two hours late.
When schools have a delayed opening on days that were originally scheduled as "early release," the early release is canceled and schools end at their regular time.
Finally, if schools dismiss early, all afternoon and evening activities, including Adult Education, are canceled. The Extended Day program closes at 4 p.m.
Do you understand how inconvenient it is to arrange childcare at the last minute?
Yes, we do! We urge parents to make alternative plans now for the care of their children when school schedules change. You might consider making arrangements with a reliable teen or stay-at-home adult in your neighborhood. Some parents also work together to support each other by forming cooperative childcare groups.
Why doesn't APS close schools in only those portions of the county that are most affected?
While a great number of our students attend schools close to home, many others are transported across the county to schools or programs outside of their neighborhood. Therefore, we take into consideration not just the conditions of one section of Arlington County, but the entire county since we have buses that must travel across the entire area.
Why do schools in states with more snowfall lose fewer days due to inclement weather?
For the most part, states in the northern and western regions of the U.S. have more snow-clearing capability because of the higher average snowfalls, making them better equipped to deal quickly with winter weather. Since the DC metropolitan area seldom gets significant amounts of snow, it usually takes a little longer for the roadways to be cleared and made safe to transport our children.
How do I find out if schools are open?
To find out the most up-to-date information, check Comcast Cable Channel 70 or Verizon FIOS Channel 41, go to www.apsva.us , call the toll-free APS hot line at 703-228-4277, or check your e-mail for an APS School Talk message. You can also listen to the radio or watch local news stations.