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Parents Livid at APS Decision to Open Schools

(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools has issued an apology as the early-morning decision to keep schools open today has been widely derided by parents as dangerous and misguided.

As more snow fell than predicted, and did so during the morning rush hour, school buses around the county got stuck on hills, were involved in accidents and, in some cases, never arrived to pick up their students.

Parents and students alike tweeted ARLnow.com about their travel woes.

Liz Vance, the mother of a third-grader at Barrett Elementary School, dropped her child off at about 9:30 a.m. after assuming there would be a delay. She told ARLnow.com she had one friend who lives on N. Granada Street waiting for the bus to come.

“[APS Superintendent Patrick] Murphy can’t get anything right,” Vance said. “Why didn’t we at least have a delay? We were driving really slow, and the roads are not good. This is kind of ridiculous. They were really pretty clear that it was going to snow. They knew with enough time to at least call a delay.”

School buses were involved in six accidents this morning, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia, including on N. McKinley Road next to McKinley Elementary School, at S. Joyce and 23rd Streets and on N. Kirkwood Road. Another was reported stuck for at least two hours at S. Quincy ands 12th Streets. Bellavia said it appears none of the accidents were serious and no students were hurt.

The snow didn’t just affect parents, students and buses; teachers and APS employees also had trouble making it to the school this morning. The instructional technology coordinator at Glebe Elementary School tweeted at 10:53 a.m. that it took him four hours and 12 minutes to get to the school today, and classes at Gunston Middle School may not have started on time due to a lack of teachers able to make it to the school.

“I think most of our schools started on time and we had enough coverage in the buildings,” Bellavia said.

There was also no phone service at some schools, including Williamsburg Elementary. Students who arrived late this morning would not be marked tardy, APS announced.

All after-school and evening activities have been cancelled, APS said in a statement, but students will be sent home at normal times.

“We believe that students are safest at school when parents have not had a chance to make alternate plans for their child’s return home from school,” the schools said in a statement. “However, families who prefer to pick up their children early today are welcome to do so.”

At noon, APS released a statement explaining its decision. APS apologized for the decision to keep schools open, as did Fairfax County Public Schools and Loudoun County Public Schools earlier.

The full APS statement, after the jump.

We apologize for the problems this morning’s weather caused our APS community. Members of our staff were monitoring the situation very early this morning. The decision to open was made with the best information we had at that time. However, weather conditions changed during the morning hours and there was a greater accumulation of snow than had been forecast.

Weather conditions are expected to improve around midday. At this time, we are planning to dismiss schools at their normal dismissal time today. This will give road crews additional time to treat the main arteries throughout the county. We expect that there will be some transportation delays again this afternoon, and some bus stops on side streets may not be accessible.  The Extended Day Program will stay open until 6:00 p.m., but families are being asked to try to pick up students earlier if possible.

We believe that students are safest at school when parents have not had a chance to make alternate plans for their child’s return home from school. We also want to give public safety crews time to work to improve road conditions throughout the county. However, families who prefer to pick up their children early today are welcome to do so.

This evening, all APS after-school and evening activities and events have been canceled, including extracurricular activities, interscholastic contests, team practices, field trips, adult and community education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds. For updates about Pool Operations, go towww.apsva.us/aquatics.  For information about Arlington County programs and operations go towww.arlingtonva.us.

Again, we apologize for the difficulties experienced by all of our families, students and staff this morning and we thank you for your patience.

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