CMS will close Monday for winter storm. It’s Day 6 and first semester isn’t over.

Drone video shows sleet covering Charlotte

Watch slushy ice cover Charlotte from a bird's eye view.
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Watch slushy ice cover Charlotte from a bird's eye view.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will be closed Monday, officials announced as snow and ice made roads treacherous and brought power lines down.

“Crews are working to restore power and heat to dozens of schools across Mecklenburg County. Experts predict potentially hazardous conditions on roads, bridges, stairs and sidewalks in many areas,” said the announcement.

It will be the sixth day almost 150,000 students and 19,000 employees have stayed home because of bad weather this school year, and first semester isn’t over. CMS closings also ripple into child care centers and other organizations that tie their schedule to the district’s.

This is the latest weather forecast for the Charlotte area from WBTV. The forecast is calling for historic amounts of snow and ice.

The decision was announced at 4:41 p.m. Sunday, after some parents spent the afternoon using the CMS Facebook page urging the district to hurry up. “Make the call please. I have 6 kids to make arrangements for,” one parent posted.

“It will be closed,” said another comment. “Prepare now for arrangements Monday. You don’t need to wait for CMS.”

On Sunday snow and ice piled up in the northern part of Mecklenburg County, while the southern part received much less.

Wake County Public Schools, which announced at 3:30 p.m. that it would close Monday, also faces perennial debate about closing countywide when some areas are clear. The district posted a multi-part tweet explaining that students and employees are scattered across the county, so the fact that a school received little snow or ice doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone to get there.

“Most importantly, there is a very, very, very important reason why our school system is countywide,” the Wake tweet said. “It’s the foundation of our success as a community. It is the reason our community has prospered. It’s why our taxes are low. It’s what attracted many of you to move here. It is why all of our schools are good schools.”

The first five days of bad-weather closings in CMS were prompted by two tropical storms that hit the coast as hurricanes.

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox has already announced that Dec. 19, the first day of winter break, and Jan. 2, the last day, won’t be used for makeup, even though they are on the CMS calendar as options. The exception is Albemarle Road and Carmel middle schools, which will have class Dec. 19 to make up for additional days those schools were closed by power outages.

The next scheduled makeup days are Jan. 22, Feb. 18 and March 29. As a last resort, CMS has designated three additional days in June after the year is scheduled to end.

CMS board policy gives the superintendent authority to waive up to four makeup days, with the calendar designed to meet state requirements without those days. Wilcox has already waived makeup time for the three days in September when Hurricane Florence closed schools.

Foul-weather closings have been a challenge for schools across the Carolinas this year. Some coastal schools were closed for more than a month after Hurricane Florence hit in September. In October the North Carolina General Assembly waived up to 20 days of instruction for schools in the hardest-hit counties.

Lawmakers are likely to face renewed calendar questions when they convene Jan. 30. The CMS board has discussed asking for permission to reduce the calendar by five additional days if all makeup days are exhausted. CMS and other districts have repeatedly asked the state to lift the calendar restrictions that dictate when most schools must start and stop the school year.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education for the Observer since 2002, long enough to watch a generation of kids go from preK to college. She is a repeat winner of the North Carolina Press Association’s education reporting award.