As winter weather sets in, Greenbrier County school officials have added the option of exercising a three-hour delay in an effort to maximize learning and meet the mandated 180 days of instruction. Students receive necessary academic and social support when school is in session and it is the goal of Greenbrier County Schools (GCS) to provide instruction and support services every day possible. However, severe weather or other emergency situations may make it necessary for school officials to close schools, open schools late or, in rare instances, dismiss students early.
A delayed opening permits buses to operate under safer conditions after traffic has diminished and roads are salted and/or cleared. It also provides time for temperatures to rise, allowing the system’s fleet of diesel-fueled vehicles to start and complete assigned routes free from concerns that fuel will gel. In the event of a two- or three-hour delay, buses start routes two or three hours later than scheduled and school begins two or three hours later than regularly scheduled. The school day ends at the regularly scheduled time.
Unsafe road conditions such as snow, ice and flooding are most often the reason for school closings or delays, however, failure of utilities, mechanical or electrical equipment in schools; epidemics; or other emergency situations can also unfortunately compromise school operation.
Through a process that begins as soon as school officials become aware of a potential weather event, the Superintendent and Director of Transportation consult as needed with agencies such as the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the West Virginia Department of Highways; the Greenbrier County Emergency Operations Center; law enforcement agencies; spotters throughout the county; maintenance officials; and other school systems in the region to determine if a closure or delay is necessary.
Unfortunately, the timing of many weather events is such that school officials have to make decisions based on forecasts as the weather event may not begin until later the next day. While even the best weather sources are not infallible, decisions are made with the safety of students at the forefront.
Weather conditions in one part of the county, such as icy or flooded roads, might cause a delayed opening or early closing even if the roads in another area of the county appear safe. Greenbrier County Schools operates 71 buses that cover approximately 4,750 miles each day – equal to the distance of traveling from Lewisburg to San Francisco and back to St. Louis daily. Three-quarters of the miles traveled each day are on secondary roads.
With newly identified National Weather Service (NWS) zones, the school system operates eight buses that serve eastern schools that are located in the NWS new western zone, not including four buses that are affected by weather alerts in Pocahontas County. Five buses are affected by weather alerts in Monroe County in addition to two buses that service Muddy Creek Mountain back to Alderson and Lewisburg.
Greenbrier County Schools operates as a system, and unless unique circumstances require an isolated closing of one school, announcements are for all public schools in Greenbrier County. The safety of students and staff is the first priority.
Greenbrier County Schools posts school closing information on the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) website at http://wvde.state.wv.us/closings. Parents and staff are encouraged to register to receive automated email and/or text notifications on the WVDE site. A school closings link can also be found on the GCS website at www.GreenbrierCountySchools.org. Area television and radio outlets are notified of school closings and delays as well.
Parents should create and practice an emergency plan for their children in the event weather conditions cause the early dismissal of schools and review the plan often so they know what to do if schools are dismiss early or have a delayed start time. Devise plans for two- and three-hour delays. Unscheduled early dismissals are rare and avoided, but may be necessary when weather conditions threaten the safety of students.
Parents are reminded to dress children in layers and warm clothing on cold mornings before sending them out to the bus stop.
Greenbrier County Schools appreciates the cooperation of parents, students and staff when school closing or delay becomes necessary.