Northern Middle School

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Winter Operations Statement 

Last Updated on Jan 27, 2014 at 10:49am | Northern Middle School

The Transportation Department of the Garrett County Public School System would like to remind and inform parents and the community of some basic points regarding winter operations for the 2013-2014 school year.
 
School buses travel 6000 miles daily while transporting students to and from school. This does not include the daily field trips and evening activities that require the services of school buses.
 
Data gathering begins for weather related school closures, many times, with the monitoring of weather forecasts from multiple weather services the night before and continues through the night and early morning hours between midnight and 5:00 AM.
 
The transportation staff begins the evaluation of road conditions as early as 2:30 AM and continues as needed until 5:00-5:15 AM.  The department routinely gathers input regarding road conditions from many individuals and agencies located throughout the county. The staff also monitors pavement temperatures as needed.
 
The staff is in constant communication with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh in order to gain an even more detailed interpretation of the data available from weather radar.
 
Weather related closure decisions, not announcements, can be made at any time. However, these decisions have to be made no later than 5:30 AM.  Public announcements are then released immediately.
 
Decisions for early out closures due to weather are typically made 2 hours in advance of the planned early out dismissal time.
 
In regards to delayed openings, a procedure typically activated to allow conditions to improve to acceptable levels, this also allows for further evaluation of road conditions and forecasted weather. Schools could still ultimately be closed due to weather even after a delayed opening has been activated. One or two hour delayed openings may occur depending on the weather or forecast.
 
Weather conditions and its impact on bus transportation are very difficult to predict. The National Weather Service’s Pittsburgh Office summarizes prediction challenges as follows:  “Garrett County experiences its fair share of winter weather due to the higher elevation of the county when compared to adjacent areas. This, in combination with predominate west-northwest winds, enhances snowfall amounts. When winds are northwest, moisture from Lake Erie is tapped and works with the elevation increase from southwestern Pennsylvania into western Maryland producing additional significant accumulations. Due to snow showers extending only half or three quarters as high into the atmosphere as summer time thunderstorms, Doppler Radar can have a tough time picking up snow showers on radar. Therefore, it is common in the winter time to see nothing on radar, but moderate to heavy snow occurring. When radar does not show anything across western Maryland, meteorologists have to rely on a less sparse data source to verify what is happening. This is the primary challenge faced by meteorologists during winter season.”
 
The Transportation Department would also like to make everyone aware of potential weather related closings by school district.  What this means is should variance in road conditions and weather dictate, it is conceivable that either the Northern District or the Southern District could be closed while the other would be open. This option of operation could be activated concurrent with the issuance of a 2 hour delay.  However, students in the closed districts would have excused absences and would not need to present a note from parents or guardians for the day their school was closed due to weather.