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Snow/rain line divides parents over school closings

Monday - 2/10/2014, 12:32pm  ET

downedlimbs_bus_AP.jpg
Workmen clear a downed tree blocking a school bus in the aftermath of a winter storm, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Downingtown, Pa. Schools canceling classes because of winter weather in at least 10 states, including Maryland, have used up the wiggle room in their academic calendars, forcing them to schedule makeup days or otherwise compensate for the lost time. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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WASHINGTON -- The dividing line separating snowfall and rain often cuts right through the metro area, and it creates a different kind of rift among parents.

This winter, especially, has exposed dramatically different winter weather -- even within individual counties.

People who live near the Beltway may look up to see light rain. In the outer regions of Fairfax or Montgomery County, snow and ice may be accumulating rapidly.

Snow days have piled up across the region, but parents in the inner suburbs have questioned why their students can't go to class when the conditions in their neighborhoods are normal.

Indeed, this year some parents have suggested on the Fairfax County Public Schools' Facebook page the creation of school zones within their districts that correspond to local weather.

The result, they posit, would be some schools without hazardous weather conditions could remain open even while snow and ice close schools in the outer regions of the county.

A creative thought, but entirely unworkable, school officials say.

Simply put, large school districts have too many moving parts to easily break apart. For example, many teachers live far from the schools where they work, even outside the county.

As a result, opening schools while teachers are snowed in would be pointless, says Dana Tofig, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools.

Likewise, buses have to traverse the school districts, meaning to arrive at a school that may be experiencing little more than rain, a driver may have to navigate more dangerous road conditions.

Even lunch would be complicated.

In Montgomery County, lunches are prepared in the Shady Grove area, which is likely to see more snow accumulation than schools inside the Beltway.

Finally, separating school districts into zones could wreak havoc with school calendars, raising the possibility that schools in the same district may have to go days longer in the summer to make up for snow days.

So for now, for families in the inner suburbs, more rainy "snow days" are likely ahead.

WTOP's David Burd posted this question to Facebook about possible school zoning for weather closings. Click the post to see the comments.

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