A winter storm that wasn’t and a predawn change of plans left some families fuming at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Monday while others praised the district for playing it safe.
“I have literally driven all over the county today and I have yet to see one patch of ice or one snowflake,” Kathryn Whitfield posted on Facebook on Monday afternoon. “Absolutely ridiculous that school was canceled today.”
“I’d rather be safe than sorry; thank you CMS,” countered Ericka DeGennaro Dahl. “Don’t want to drive on icy roads!”
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On Sunday night, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools told families school was on for Monday – originally a teacher work day, but scheduled as a makeup day after January snow and ice.
By the time the district decided to cancel at 5:30 a.m. Monday, many students and parents were already up and getting ready. Some were at bus stops before they got word of the closing. And roads were clear.
CMS social media accounts were bombarded with questions, complaints and compliments, with about 200 Facebook comments and a stream of Twitter commentary.
Superintendent Ann Clark and Chief Communications Officer Kathryn Block said the CMS staff was faced with inconsistent reports about the likelihood of icy roads by the time they conferred with city and county officials at 4:30 a.m. Monday. Even though nothing was falling Monday morning, Block said, there had been “some precipitation” in northern Mecklenburg on Sunday, with forecasts for freezing rain that could make roads hazardous later Monday morning and/or during the afternoon commute.
Nearby districts made similar calls. Union County Public Schools, for instance, announced a two-hour delay on Sunday, then canceled school for students Monday morning. Gaston, Lincoln and Iredell-Statesville also closed Monday.
“I think it is in the best interest of our students and staff that we are not faced with trying to transport students when the storm has arrived,” Shante Murphy posted on the CMS Facebook page, recalling the 2014 snowstorm in Atlanta that left children stranded on school buses, some overnight, as they faced snow-clogged roads going home.
No major storm materialized in Mecklenburg County, though some freezing rain fell in the afternoon.
Even some who supported the closing decision questioned why Clark scheduled a CMS makeup day for May 27. Last summer the school board granted the superintendent authority to waive up to four makeup days, a move that’s possible because the CMS calendar includes more than the minimum class time required by the state.
Block said it’s still too early in the winter to assume CMS won’t need its scheduled days. The calendar started with 10 potential makeup days running from September to June. Now there are three untapped – and the last two would shave days off spring break, which Clark has said she’s eager to protect.
Monday showed how quickly the days can be used up: When snow and ice closed school on Jan. 22, CMS scheduled a makeup on Jan. 25. With ice remaining on roads and school grounds, that was also canceled, with the makeup day pushed to Feb. 15. And we know how that turned out.
CMS announced at 5:15 p.m. that schools will be open on a normal schedule Tuesday.