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Would closing Prince William schools in zones mean fewer snow days?

David Cline, associate superintendent for Prince William schools, Lilly Jessie, Prince William School Board, and others spoke on a panel at Northern Virginia Community College.

It’s been a rough start to the New Year for the Prince William County Public School division.

On Jan. 6, it snowed heavily across portions of Prince William and Fairfax counties as a clipper system “over performed” and peppered frozen precipitation across the area, resulting in more snow than forecasters originally thought the storm would bring.

Schools in Prince William and Fairfax were not canceled, and that led to delays and children being stuck on buses en route to school. It led to outrage among parents and students who took to social media to denounce the school division’s decision not to close schools.

Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts issued a public apology for not closing schools.

On Wednesday, snow fell again, accumulating more this time in our region’s southern counties like Stafford and Spotsylvania. Prince William picked up a dusting of snow, and this time school was canceled. Canceling school for a dusting of snow drew the ire of some, proving once again that you cannot (especially the school division) please everyone.

Last night at a meeting of the Prince William Committee of 100 at the Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge Campus, the question was asked “would it be better for Prince William County to divide the county into a western, central, and eastern zones,” and then close schools by zones in the event of inclement weather?

The question was directed to David Cline, associate superintendent for finance at Prince William schools.

Cline said other schools systems, neighboring Loudoun County, tried to split that county into zones, but it didn’t work. A similar plan in Prince William, he said, probably wouldn’t work, either.

“Two days ago, there was snow in Dumfries on the I-95 corridor and there was nothing on Bull Run Mountain,” said Cline.

During a usual snow storm, the mountain in the western portion of the county sees more snow than the east side of the county.

It would be easy to close schools in zones if all schools offered the same programs at each campus. However, since different language, arts, and technical classes are offered at specific school sites, and because some school buses transport children to their respective schools throughout the county, Cline said closing schools by zones wouldn’t make much sense in the long run.

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