Bus stop, road conditions led to four-day snow closure, school officials explain

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: December 30, 2018 | 2:45 p.m. 

Dinwiddie Schools to forgo making up lost classroom time 

DINWIDDIE – Dinwiddie County Public Schools officials explained their rationale for keeping schools closed for four days earlier this month following historic snowfall that blanketed the county in upwards of a foot of snow in some areas, citing snow covering a number of non-VDOT maintained roads.

Earlier this month, the late-weekend storm brought heavy snow to the entirety of Dinwiddie County, calling VDOT snow removal crews and school maintenance crews into action as they worked to get roads, parking lots, bus loops, and sidewalks cleared for the eventual reopening of school, which resulted in four school days being missed. 

During the Dinwiddie County Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this month, while receiving their monthly report from VDOT and their representative Scott Thornton, Supervisor Harrison Moody praised the agency’s crews for working quickly to get the county’s roads clear following the weekend storm, particularly on the more rural ends of the county while also questioning how efforts to clear subdivisions was handled by VDOT and if needing to clear those specific areas impacted schools and their ability to reopen sooner. 

According to Thornton, the agency was “reporting all roads clear” in the county “by the end of the day on Monday, and certainly by Tuesday” but, he did explain there can be challenges when it comes to tackling subdivisions in the county with plows and other units.

“What happened was,” Thornton detailed, “we had a lot of folks who parked their vehicles out at the end of their driveways or parked in the street so they could get out and go to and from work. Unfortunately, the day after the snow, we find that we can’t get into the area so we had some subdivision roads that we can’t turn down into.”

He added that the agency is working to get the message out regarding parking and snow clearing efforts, asking those living in subdivisions or areas with street parking to “try and park up and into the driveway,” as not doing so present safety issues to crews. 

“Some people have darker colored cars and when our crews are coming through at night, if their vehicle is sticking out of the driveway, that plow is going to tear it up,” Thornton said.

He added people leaving their cars parked on the side of the road following the snow, likely due to people choosing to walk instead of drive further in the heavy snow Sunday, also presented issues to crews working to clear roads, but he said he couldn’t speak specifically to what led to the school division’s decision to remain closed for four days. 

In an interview, Dinwiddie Schools spokesperson Christie Clarke said they were aware that VDOT had reported roads were 100% clear early in the week following the storm, but she said there were some roads the school division’s transportation department found to be not adequately cleared enough, or in some cases, not cleared at all, to allow buses to run on them to transport students.

“VDOT doesn’t maintain all of the roads so, at that point, our transportation department was riding out to check roads and there were roads that still weren’t clear,” she said, noting that the roads that were in need of some form of clearing were ones that do not fall under VDOT’s jurisdiction for maintenance. 

She added that bus stop safety was also a concern, as snow and ice had piled up in normal drop-off and pick-up areas for students, along with several nights of below-freezing temperatures paired with thawing during the daytime helped to create situations where black ice could form on some untreated surfaces along county roads. 

So far, the school division has missed five days of classes, all tied to inclement weather. Four of those days came due to the mid-December snowstorm and one day was missed due to the impacts of Hurricane Michael on the region.

When asked if that lost time will be made up, Clarke said, “At this time, we have enough time to cover the time we have missed” and that there are no plans to make up the lost instructional time. 

Going into the school year, Dinwiddie County Public Schools’ calendar was built on 1,052 instructional hours, used across 178 days, which is well above the 990-hour minimum prescribed by state law. That additional time, like most school divisions, is considered “banked time,” which is used of offset lost classroom time due to unexpected closures. 

Some school divisions, like Prince George County, build additional days into their calendar and, if those inclement weather or unexpected closure days aren’t depleted, at the end of the school year, some of that time might be converted into time off for students at the discretion of the school board and school division. 

“We will continue to monitor our instructional time should we miss more days in the future this year,” she closed. 

As of this report, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the date of January 28, 2019, remain holidays for Dinwiddie students.

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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