Say It Ain’t Snow
February 3, 2015
On Jan. 6, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) made the decision to open on time despite the possibility of a “slight dusting” of snow. The snow, however, soon became heavier and caused an immense problem for students, teachers and administrators attempting to get to school. Many students came in late only to find that their teachers had not arrived yet, and teachers without first period classes were rushing around, trying to cover all the classes. Students who attempted to walk to school had to make the precarious journey on sidewalks covered in ice and snow, and the school sidewalks and parking lot were in a similarly dangerous condition.
The original snow forecast that FCPS followed when making its call admittedly only forecasted a light dusting of snow that would have a negligible effect on the morning commute to school. However, the reality turned out to be quite different. Several inches of snow and ice accumulated in the early hours of the morning, making the usual traffic problems of the area much worse.
Students who drove in had a number of difficulties they had to overcome. Between trying to keep their cars from spinning out and attempting to make it through the traffic that stretched for miles, it was a nasty commute for any driver. Buses were sliding down hills in neighborhoods, and some students were stuck on the bus for several hours. Many arrived late or had to turn around during their commutes because the traffic was unmoving or their cars broke down before they arrived.
Even once students arrived at school, the day was not productive for many students due to absences of a large potion of teachers and students. The focus of the students instead turned to social media, where students, teachers and parents all over the county started a national and global trend, #closefcps, to express their outrage that schools remained open and, in the case of many students, to campaign for an early release from school. The former idol of many FCPS students, school board member Ryan McElveen, also received some heat from students (although he had nothing to do with the decision) and issued an apology on Twitter for the decision to keep school open. Superintendent Karen Garza also issued an apology along with another one posted on the FCPS website.
“I was leaving my house, and I was already late. My mom wouldn’t let me drive myself to school, so she decided to drive me, but the car with four-wheel drive was in the garage, and the garage door had broken the night before and wouldn’t open. We ended up driving my car that was 15 years old. We inched down the road for about a quarter of a mile before I gave up and got out of the car, and my mom turned around. I walked about a mile to school in the snow, passing the car that couldn’t drive up the hill and was slowing down all the traffic. I got into school right when the bell was ringing for first period to start, but only about half the class was there. Later that day we had a Spanish chat about our morning. I had it a lot better than many of the other students at the school. The day was fun though because none of my classes really did anything, and some teachers even told us to just keep up with Twitter instead of doing work.”
Alexis Smedley, 11
“I ran into issues pretty much instantly. I have a Front Wheel Drive Car, so it was pretty difficult driving in the snowy/icy conditions. The second I tried turning out of my neighborhood onto a main road (Lee Chapel) I already began to struggle. I had troubles making the turn, and it took a long time for my tires to actually gain traction and move me forward in the correct direction. I didn’t have many issues after that as majority of the roads I then traveled on were fairly clear due to the immense traffic that was driving through them, but I encountered issues once again when I went into a neighborhood to pickup my friend. I struggled to get up the first hill to turn into his neighborhood, and then barely managed to get up the hill on his street after stopping to let a bus pass by. On my way down the hill, I attempted to turn into his driveway, but I ended up just sliding right past his house. I had issues getting out of his neighborhood, but it was the same thing as before, unable to make the turn and get up to speed, etc. Everything else was fine from there, but then on the way home, after going back into his neighborhood, I ended up sliding into an intersection after trying to brake. Luckily the intersection was empty of cars, and that was pretty much all of the issues I had during the commute to and from school.”
Jason Kaplan, 12
“I went to pick up my friend from her house like I usually do, and when I got there she asked me if I could take two more people because their car got stuck. I had four-wheel drive so I didn’t have a problem but on our way, traffic was backed up half -way through Lake Braddock Drive. There were several men waiting around and helping people who got stuck. It took about 30 minutes to get to school when it usually takes 5-10.”
Hannah Stokes, 12