FAQs - Inclement Weather
How does PWCS determine if schools should open as normal, run on a delayed schedule, or remain closed when inclement weather is forecast or is occurring.
The safety of students, employees and their families is our number one priority in determining if schools should open as normal, run on a delayed schedule, or remain closed when inclement weather creates potentially dangerous conditions.
When rough weather hits, PWCS survey teams fan out in the wee hours of the morning across the nearly 350 square miles served by the School Division. They assess actual weather and travel conditions, also checking for additional hazards such as power outages. We also consider multiple weather forecasts in the decision-making process, as expected rising temperatures and sunshine may produce marked improvement in the span of a two-hour delay. In contrast, continuing precipitation and other factors can indicate that travel will remain risky. We always err on the side of safety. Consequently, residents in one part of the county may experience passable conditions despite whether that poses a serious transportation risk elsewhere in the Division.
Why doesn't PWCS simply divide the county into multiple areas and make individual closing decisions for each?
The simple answer is that no school or geographic area of the Division is an island. Teachers, support staff, and even many students travel every day to their respective schools from other areas of the county and beyond. We must ensure their safety and, to the extent possible, avoid weather-related schedule changes that affect some family members and not others. Fully aligned Divisionwide schedules permit buses and other resources to safely serve multiple schools, no matter what their location with respect to an artificial boundary. We must also ensure that Divisionwide schedules remain synchronized so every school can complete required testing, training, and grading, provide scheduled vacation time, and stay in compliance employee contracts, all while delivering no less than the minimum class time required by law.
It would require a significant infusion of resources to enable regional zones to be fully independent, but doing so would negate the value of shared Divisionwide resources, eliminate few of the stated obstacles to unified decision-making, and do nothing to enhance the margin of safety provided by our current process.
We know it can be shocking to learn that schools are closed, while seeing very little ice or snow on the roads. Please understand that, given the realities and limitations we face, we are making the best possible call to keep people safe across all of Prince William County. We are confident that you share our determination not to take chances with safety.