Wake County Schools

Wake decides early to close schools Friday

Posted February 19, 2015

— After a day spent playing defense over its handling of a school closing decision, the Wake County Public School System went on the offense Thursday evening, announcing before 5:30 p.m. that classes were canceled for Friday.

Other area school districts closed Friday include Durham, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Orange, Johnston, Chatham and Lee.

Wake County's school district issued an alert at about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday  that no classes would be held Thursday, which was about three hours after other school districts in the Triangle made similar decisions.

Parents and students watched the district's Twitter account throughout the day for word on Thursday's schedule and became increasingly irritated as the evening wore on with no word. At about 6 p.m., as closings were announced for other districts, Wake schools officials were wrapping up a day-long trivia contest on Twitter and sent out the following message:

Jokes and criticism flew across social media when there was no immediate follow-up message. One person tweeted, "I'll be married with kids by the time @WCPSS decides if we have school or not," while another sent the message "Coach K will stop coaching before @WCPSS decides."

More tweets were sent Wednesday night using the district's Twitter handle than tweets using the hashtag for the UNC-Duke basketball game.

School officials tried to fend it off:

"All parents have responsibilities. We all have jobs," said Andy Coltrane of Cary. "We need to know what’s going on earlier in the day.

"Wake County was just dawdling around," he continued. "Counties east of us were closed (as were) counties west, south and north. There’s no reason to assume Wake County wouldn’t be closed, but for them not to make the decision till 9:30 is irresponsible, flat irresponsible."

District spokeswoman Lisa Luten said the policy is to try to make a decision on a weather-related closure by 11 p.m. if possible to broadcast the message on the late news. If not, the decision would be made by 4:45 a.m. to get it announced as soon as possible on the morning news.

Luten called the decision important not only for safety but it's impact on education, and it isn't a decision that officials take lightly.

School board members agreed, saying they want to accommodate parents as much as possible but that decisions need to be driven by safety and educational concerns.

"Wake County has always worked hard to accommodate families," board member Jim Martin said. "Then, when we take longer on a decision due to safety concerns than they would like, people get upset. They need to put it in perspective."

"We know we’ll never please everyone. We are a large school district. It takes longer to make these decisions, and the safety of our children and staff has to be the top priority," board member Keith Sutton said.

Sutton added that, as a parent, he empathized with those questioning the district's decision, but added that it take time to make the right decision.

"Those parents who were inconvenienced, I apologize for that," he continued. "But we have to put the safety of the students and staff first and that's what the staff was doing."

Coltrane and others also criticized the tone of the district's Twitter messages.

Coltrane said the district needs to communicate professionally with area families, "not through a Twitter account that seems to be more of a comedy show that honest communication."

"It was infuriating," he said. "They were playing games and riddles. We don’t want riddles. We want to know if they’re going to be open or closed."

Martin added that Twitter is an important tool for the district to connect with social media-savvy students.


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  • Shannon Meredith Feb 20, 2015
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    I do agree that the school closing decision could have been made sooner...having said that, I also planned that they would be out, based on past experience with similar weather conditions. Conditions in the more rural parts of the county could not have changed much....certainly could not have improved between 5:30 and 9:45p, as temperatures continued to drop; therefore a decision could have been made by 6 or 7p.
    I do think that a delayed start at most for Thursday would have been sufficient, but again, those of us who are not in the rural areas have better conditions than others.
    As for the trivia, I think they tried to insert a little educational fun into an otherwise wasted day. It was sad to see so many children saying "who cares" and "all I want to know is if we have school". Usually the kid's posts are light hearted and funny, but they did get a bit disrespectful yesterday and it is sad to see our youth behaving like this.

  • Paul Donovan Feb 20, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    Exactly, and the year round kids have to makeup the days on Saturdays.

  • Jj Parker Feb 20, 2015
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    I don't have a Twitter account but I don't need one to have known if WC closed. I took an educated guess that if ALL the schools around me were closed that WC would have done the same. It's not rocket science to figure that out.

    Just because the roads you travel maybe ok. That certainly doesn't mean all roads are in the same shape. They weren't so I applaud WC for closing. Not only for the children's safety but for the parents as well as all employees.

  • Peter Panda Feb 19, 2015
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    View quoted thread


  • Peter Panda Feb 19, 2015
    user avatar

    ridiculous how quick it is to close a school in NC...no wonder why they are the bottom feeders when it comes to education

  • Ann Ethridge Feb 19, 2015
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    Again, you cannot annouce a closing at 5am when students get up at 4am to be at a bus stop at 4:45, what part are you all missing? Glad they got it right today! And as for make up, we will have our spring break, no worries on that. Wake parents are not going to entertain that. Besides, between the 2 1/2 days, the 1st day of break and the hours that are banked, we will be fine. No need to panic parents. Just make sure students are ready to rock on Monday - Saturday if your child is year-round. Less than 75 days til the end of school - woo hoo!

  • Blake Webber Feb 19, 2015
    user avatar

    listening to all these parents complain about being notified about a closing at 9:50pm at night. well where I grew up and still to this day, children and parents were not notified about closing until that morning. still to this day I never hear any complaining. to be honest I don't understand closing this long anyway, but that's another topic.

  • Rick Leslie Feb 19, 2015
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    You thought they were whining before? Just wait until they take Spring Break to make up for all the ill-advised snow days. haha.

  • Jon Gregory Feb 19, 2015
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    Well kids, enjoy it now... 4 days to make up.

  • Dean Morron Feb 19, 2015
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    How about WCPSS administrators act like adults, focus on what is important and ultimately inform the parents. I don't Twitter. The lack of professionalism is apparent within this school system.