Snow Days, Snow Routes, Make-Up Days, and Work Days

It has certainly been a tough couple weeks of weather in our beautiful county.  We are certain that many of our families are as frustrated as we are that we have not been able to open schools, especially today (January 31).  As one drives through the county on main roads such as Broad St., Fairgrounds, River Rd., Hockett Rd., Manakin Rd., it is hard to imagine that schools are closed.  My teammates that drive the Western end of the county are reporting similar conditions on main roads.  As we begin to drive on secondary roads, even some of the major connectors, we have significant concerns.

TODAY’S SCHOOL CLOSING

I personally drove Sheppardtown Rd. to Maidens Rd. to Log Cabin Rd. back to Maidens Rd. to Hawktown Rd. to Camelback Rd.  Even in that short drive at the beginning of our assessment, it was clear that it was not safe for bus passage.  Log Cabin Rd., for instance, had barely been touched with a very steep hill covered with ice.  Seeing those conditions, we decided to close.

We also know that with rising temperatures, we could have been fine by 11am or 12pm, but by 9am when our buses had to be on the road, conditions would not be ready.  The rest of our teammates were reporting similar conditions all throughout the county.  While driving backroads, we rarely found a spot that did not have at least 20 ft. of ice about every quarter mile.  We realized that if it were not the 10th absence, we would not even consider opening in these conditions.  Here is an example of a picture we saw during our assessment today:

Some have asked us why we called for the delay in the evening, then closed in the morning.  We were continuing to work with VDOT throughout the evening and felt like we had a strong possibility for improvement with their support; however, upon assessing conditions in the morning, the roads were not ready.  We apologize for having to make the call in the morning, but we sent notifications as soon as we were certain that closing was necessary.

SNOW ROUTES

Many families have asked us about snow routes and whether we would consider implementing snow routes.  The answer is yes!  We are working on designing snow routes and should have an announcement soon.  That being said, we have seen conditions over the past two weeks where snow routes would not have helped.  Major roads for our transportation system, such as Sheppardtown most of this week (the road that houses RES) and Whitehall last week, would be required during any snow route.  That being said, we will work to see if we can avoid those spots and select safe locations to pick up our students.  It will take us several days to create these routes now that we know the worst spots, but we will be announcing them soon.  Additionally, once created we will need to test them during another storm before making the call to be certain all are safe.

MAKE-UP DAYS

Please remember that February 17 and March 21 are now school days for students and staff.  At this time, we have no plans to add additional make-up days as our calendar still has some flexibility.  We are required to have 990 hours of total instruction or a 180 day calendar.  Fortunately, our calendar allows us to miss many more days to meet the 990 hour requirement.  The difficulty comes at GMS and GHS with the 140-clock hour requirement for standard credits for graduation.  Last year, the VDOE offered us an option under our policy IKF-R2 to waive the 140-clock hour requirement under certain circumstances.  At this point, we feel that we have everything required to waive the 140-clock hour requirement, so we are not recommending additional make-up days.  We have no plans to do any days over Spring Break at all.  If we have a significant number of additional days off, then we may consider more make-up days, but will consider numerous options before canceling Spring Break due to the feedback that we have received about the number of families that have already booked and made plans.

WORK DAYS

Teachers, as I am sure you are aware, many divisions have been holding workdays during the extended school closings.  Assuming major road conditions are fine, similar to today, we just want to prepare you that we will likely implement professional development sessions or at least have classroom workdays and team meetings.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

Thank you all so much for your flexibility during this difficult month of weather.  Please know that we do not take school closings lightly.  We think about the high school student that just got his/her license and whether or not he/she is ready to drive in these conditions.  We care for all children and we think about whether we would want our own children out in these conditions.  At the same time, we think about how difficult it must be in families where all parents/guardians work and wonder how they find coverage for their children.  Lastly, we think about the child who potentially doesn’t eat or have heat at home when school is closed and we know that school is the safest possible place.

With that said, if it is safe to travel to school, we will be here.  We will continue to find alternate ways to avoid days like today.  But if it is not safe, I hope that you will trust that we are making a decision to protect your children.  At the end of the day, we know that our children are safe today.

37 thoughts on “Snow Days, Snow Routes, Make-Up Days, and Work Days

  1. Thank you for making the hard call with safety in mind. Thank you also for communicating so effectively.

  2. Thank you for keeping the safety of our children at the forefront…..I would rather make arrangements or bring my child to work with me rather than run the risk of unsafe roads. I would not want to be the one that makes the call on these days, as was witnessed the last go round when the busses were already out and about…the backlash on that couldn’t have been pretty….but, I know that the best decisions are being made to the best of the ability of those making them….thank you.

  3. Thanks for your thorough and candid remarks. Communication helps us all understand where others are coming from.

  4. Cannot be an easy task. But that being said communication is the key….and you have surpassed that thank you

  5. Thank you Dr Lane and everyone for working to make the best if a difficult situation! I could tell at the YMCA yesterday that it was/is a stressful decision! On a positive note, the days that we have been in school, the kids have been ready to roll and maximize our time together! 5th graders might not readily admit it, but I think they miss being there! Great explanatory post!

  6. Thank you for your continued effort in keeping our children + school staff safe. Also, thank you for your direct communication. We are extremely blessed to have a school adminstration that cares about our county as much as you all do.

  7. Thank you for the pictures as well as the explanation. Those of us that work West of the County were having a hard time telling folks just how bad the roads can be in counties like Goochland where the are fewer “primary” roads and a considerable number of tertiary and quaternary roads that buses frequent. Thanks again.

  8. Thank you for all of this information. We know that this has been a thoughtful decision.

  9. Thank you for explaining the decision making process and showing some photos of the challenges our bus drivers are facing in the County. I think the snow routes are a fantastic idea. As a parent of a GMS student, I would be willing to assist in waiting with children whose parents cannot miss work in order for their children to get on the bus during delays. My job is flexible enough to allow me to do that, and I hope it would help parents in the area.

  10. Thank you Dr. Lane for taking the time to communicate this information as the pictures tell the real story. The right decision was made in the best interest of our children – Thank you!

  11. Safety is number one….parents complaining would have a greater complaint if buses were involved in an accident due to hazards roads. We as community can come together to help those in need who are without heat, food and water. Thanks again for making our kids safety your number one priority.

  12. Thank you Dr Lane for all that you and your team are doing to ensure safety first and foremost! As a parent of children at BES, GMS, and GHS it’s nice to know all of the considerations that you are taking. And for sure, our road is NOT clear at all. I think the idea of snow routes is something that we have to consider and I am happy to hear that it is under consideration. Thanks for the heads up that days will not be taken from spring break – good to know! Our county is very fortunate to have this team in place!

  13. I appreciate the follow-up and I agree with the decisions. I have a teen driver and even though she feels she is a great driver, snow and ice is dangerous for seasoned drivers. The pictures really allowed us all to see what other community members are experiencing.

    Thanks

  14. Thank you for sending the pictures and giving details about road conditions. I was surprise at first with closing but agree safety is important. Also making the decision quickly this morning, I was about to wake kids up when I saw the announcement on the news and then checked my email to confirm it. Most roads are clear but with evidence of the pictures I agree with your decision.

  15. Many thanks to you, Dr. Lane and to the team you work with to make these pertinent decisions to keep us all safe.

  16. Thank you for providing this thorough update. As a parent of 2 kids in Goochland I can certainly appreciate everyone keeping safety at the top of the list. Thanks again.

  17. As a parent and a bus driver I appreciate the decisions u r required to make. Safety should be most important for r children. You can pls everyone so continue to do the great job you r doing. Tk u

  18. Thanks alot for the update. Very good decision-making. I can relate with the secondary road conditions because we reside on one.

  19. What a pleasure it is to read an article written so effectively. Thanks for keeping our children safe.

  20. Thank you for putting your concern for the children’s safety first, for effectively communicating the rationale behind the difficult decisions you all have to make, and for considering alternative bus routes to try and minimize school disruption in the future. I feel we are fortunate to have the current School Board and administration team in this County and appreciate your efforts.

  21. Thank you for the great explanation Goochland Co. Is very lucky to have you as our superintendent.

  22. I appreciate you taking our children(s) safety into consideration as a parent of 3 elementary students. Thank you for all your hard work :)

  23. Thanks for going above and beyond and caring so much. I grew up in another rural county and it was always tough in these situations to deal with buses/closings. Thanks for the communication!

  24. thank you for all your hard work, explanations, pictures, and also for getting up early and traveling these sometimes-dangerous roads so you can make informed decisions for our children’s safety.

  25. Pictures tell a thousand words! Thank you for sharing these photos in your post. I know teachers at RES have been working at school and online as my “in box” has been full with questions and ideas for upcoming units of study and events. We are ready for ours students to return when it is safe. Thank you again for your informative post.

  26. I have been scratching my head the last couple days, but this communication is a tremendous help. Thanks.

  27. Thanks so much for sharing your thought process. We appreciate your teams diligence and are glad that our children’s safety comes first! Thanks for all the hard work!

  28. I understand and agree that children safety is number one priority but has the county done everything possible to avoid this situation? Has anyone seen plows around the county these past two weeks to clean up the roads? Maybe once the snow routes are in place the county and VDOT will be able to focus on those to make sure they are plowed/sanded/salted before having to deal with ice for several days in a row

    • I completely agree with LW. Why haven’t the secondary roads been cleared by VDOT? Our kids are not going to school because roads have not been cleared, that does not make sense.

  29. Thank you Goochland for putting the safety of our kids above all else. So much time and effort goes into making these types of decisions and it is much appreciated.

  30. Thank you for keeping our children safe. I would rather have you close the school, then having them open and something bad happen. Thank you for putting our children first.

  31. Thank God we still have our precious Spring Break! Never mind that we are 2 weeks behind in our curriculum pacing. It now becomes a race to catch up in covering the material in time for SOL testing (the results of which haven’t been so hot lately). Maybe if we drop our standards low enough, all of our students will appear brilliant. How about we go to school year-round and take the month of January off?

  32. Thank you so much for the continued updates both here on the blog and through e-mails. These communications help bring the whole county together so that we’re all on the same page while being sensitive to the concerns that may only affect certain areas. I personally love the idea of snow routes and I’m happy to hear you are looking into this option. For instance, while the pictures and video you showed above demonstrated roads that are completely covered, I see that you were able to safely drive the roads. And when schools are closed I’m pretty confident that the majority of students are out on the roads in cars that are probably less safe than the buses – elementary and middle school students who are riding with parents to alternative child care or even to work with Mom & Dad and high school kids who don’t want to be stuck inside all day and would rather meet up with their friends. I have no intention of sounding like I would want to put kids in harms way to get to school….however I do believe that the conditions that were included in the blog in NO way kept students at home for the day or parents home from work. The kids have to go somewhere so snow routes would be an excellent option to get kids safely to school instead of possibly home alone (many parents indicate they have no option other than to get to work). Thanks again for all your hard work in these difficult decisions!!