Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter is Here

Perhaps this is a good time to review for you our approach to determining whether school should be delayed or closed.  The basics are provided on our web site at http://www.calvertnet.k12.md.us/departments/administration/emergency/weatherdecisions.asp

As for today,  Director of Transportation Ed Cassidy and I spoke at around 4:55a.m.  He reports to me all the road conditions and weather predictions and other relevant info.  At that time there was nothing happening.  We knew there was a chance that some snow would hit in the northern part of the county and that it might happen before all the buses had made their runs.  Generally speaking you need to make a decision by around 5:15 because the high school buses will soon be on the move.  We decided then to go on time today.  We will have similar conversations many times in the next few months.

At 6:45 we got notice that an accident further north on Rt.4 in AA county was backing up traffic on 4 and 260.  By that time all first tier buses are well on their way.  That traffic problem caused a lot of buses to be late and therefore they were late for 2nd and 3rd runs.

 At 8:45 we got notice that Mt. Harmony Rd was closed.  We discussed what to do with  buses headed to that school and dvised them to pull over and wait.  Notice that road was open came at 8:56.

Weather can be very different in different sections of the county.  It can be 34 degrees everywhere but a few places can dip to 31.  Today there were no issues south of the 2/4 split that I am aware of.  We will make the best decision we can.  Once the buses are moving the children’s safety is in the hands of the drivers.  We trust their skills.   By design there is no safer vehicle on the road than the school bus and someone who qualifies to drive a bus is expected to adjust to changing road conditions.   

We advise all parents that the final call is theirs.  Should we have school and they don’t feel it is safe, they can keep their children home – it will be an excused absence. 

 We recognize that folks like to be notified as far ahead as possible and will aim to do that when possible.  I love that snow storm that starts about 6pm so we can cancel school for the next day before we go to bed.  But mother nature doesn’t work that way.   
Big snow storms are sometimes nothing but rain.  I have shoveled 6 inches of partly cloudy from my driveway.  I have canceled school based upon the weather prediction, only to have it miss us completely and the sun comes out.  I have called for 2 hour delays when the fog was like pea soup, only for it to lift quickly and not be an issue.  I have sent students home mid-day and then shuddered to learn the next day how many had to spend the afternoon sitting outside their house because the parents didn’t get the word. 

 It is easy to second guess and no doubt there are times when we say to ourselves, if those conditions present themselves just like that again, we maybe would choose differently.  An internal team will often meet and debrief on weather issues.
Winter is just beginning.  Here's a big thanks in advance for those in the transportation department and others who monitor the weather, drive the roads in the wee hours, weigh all the variables and lose sleep over these decisions.  Here's also a big thanks to those in the district office who take all the phone calls from folks who want to make sure that we know they disagree with our decision.  They respond with courtesy and patience when the caller is neither.
In the end, the decision is in the hands of the superintendent.  So, the buck stops here.  I've been making these calls every winter since 1987 in West Virginia mountains and hills and in flat lands of Delaware. So, it is fair to say that I have been called an idiot and other colorful names in multiple languages since 1987.  It's OK.  I understand. 


  1. I love your post! It made me laugh. I feel very confident in you and your teams ability to make decisions regarding the weather and school closings. Thanks for taking the time to convey your message. Let everyone at the board know we appreciate their patience!

  2. I drive a school bus in Calvert County, and my heart goes out to Mr. Cassidy when he has to make the call during inclement weather. Parents are quick to criticize, however, due to lack of knowledge on their part, they don't realize that what they might see on their own street is not indicative of all the streets in the neighborhoods we are forced to travel on. I cringe when I hear the anger from parents regarding a decision that is opposed to what they believe is warranted. My prayers are with the amazing staff in the Transportation Department, that not only has to answer the phones and speak with angry citizens, but are also very understanding and friendly when verbally attacked. Kudos to all of you amazing staff. Your are highly under-appreciated during the winter months.