You woke up Saturday to The Winter Storm That Wasn’t. Your roads were fine all weekend, and Monday evening you learned that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be closed for a second day.
The frustrations that bubbled up Monday morning will no doubt accelerate Tuesday, especially in ice-free areas of Mecklenburg County. Snow-day decisions are always complicated in a countywide district that covers 546 square miles and has 168 schools.
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. And even when main roads are clear, some neighborhood streets, school parking lots, sidewalks and the decks outside mobile classrooms remain dangerously slick.
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As the sun set Monday, CMS officials announced that about 50 schools remained icy despite three days of efforts to clear them. Employees are expected to report to work at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
“While many roadways and CMS campuses are clear, weather reports indicate there may be black ice and refreezing, which could cause roads to be unsafe during the early morning,” the CMS statement said.
Iredell-Statesville Schools and Wake County Schools are among other districts that decided Monday to keep students out for another day.
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.
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.”
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.