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Making the decision to close or delay school during inclement weather

By Melissa Gaona, mgaona@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jan 13 2014 12:29:35 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 13 2014 07:44:04 PM EST

Roanoke City Schools Superintendent Rita Bishop and Community Relations Coordinator Justin McLeod talk about the school division's decision process to close school or not.

ROANOKE, Va. -

Any time winter weather is in the forecast; schools must make the decision to either delay or close. Last week, bad weather affected three school days. Whether it's a delay or closing, school officials try to make the call as early as possible.

Roanoke City Superintendent Rita Bishop says the biggest worry is ice and what can happen with a sudden temperature drop.

Seventy percent of students in Roanoke ride the bus so naturally school leaders must take transportation into account. "Student safety is always first and if the buses can't make it on the ice, then we have to go with a two hour delay or close," explained Bishop.

The decision process starts early. School officials travel the roads, check the conditions, and then report back to the Superintendent usually by 4 a.m.

Though the weather may be calm in some areas, it’s different around higher elevations. Three key areas that Roanoke City checks are Peakwood, Yellow Mountain Road, and Sherwood by Wasena Elementary.

The perfect scenario is when six inches of snow is on the ground and the weather is obvious.

Community relations coordinator Justin McLeod says getting the word out early and instantaneously is very important. That's when social media plays a part. "Last week we closed due to the historic cold and that posting on Facebook had more than 26,000 views, which is a record for us," said McLeod.

Roanoke city schools also monitor conditions by watching WDBJ7 weather, checking in with the city, and the Virginia Department of Transportation.