You woke up Saturday to The Winter Storm That Wasn’t. Your roads have been fine all weekend, and today you may be frustrated by the decision to close schools.
Second-guessing snow-day decisions is a national pastime, even more so in a countywide district that covers 546 square miles. Here’s what Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Chief Operating Officer Carol Stamper has to say about this round.
First the obvious: While the southern part of Mecklenburg County didn’t get nearly as much snow and ice as forecasts called for, northern roads – roughly north of W.T. Harris Boulevard – remained treacherous Monday morning. And even when main roads are clear, some neighborhood streets, school parking lots, sidewalks and the decks outside mobile classrooms remain dangerously slick.
Stamper says CMS put down five tons of ice melt in advance of the weekend storm, but there’s still a lot of hard-to-clear ice in the north, even though district staff and contractors worked all weekend.
Then comes the follow-up. As Jeremy Stephenson, a former and future school board candidate (he expects to file this year), put it on Facebook, the question is “why all of CMS needs to operate lock step. ... If roads clear in Ballantyne/Matthews/South Charlotte, why close those schools?”
The answer, Stamper says, is that bus routes, staff and students don’t fit into compact zones. Magnet schools pull from wide areas and teachers don’t always live within their school zone. If CMS opens some schools while parts of the county remain icy, it could put students, teachers and drivers at risk.
“It’s all or nothing for our county,” she said. “We’ve never done it by region.”
Finally, the big question on parents’ minds today: What about Tuesday?
CMS will announce a decision this afternoon. The district is working with transportation staff and road crews in Charlotte and the six towns to monitor roads, and Monday afternoon’s temperatures are expected to rise enough to help with the thaw, Stamper said.
“We need time, and we need some Mother Nature help,” she said.
Last January, when a winter-weather closing dragged on for three days, parents asked if the district could summon volunteer brigades to help clear lingering ice. The answer is no: It’s ineffective and risky, officials say.