Yellow school bus

“Our Preference is Always to Have School”

Dr. Joshua Starr

Dr. Starr makes the final decision about school closings and delays.

Have you ever wondered how Montgomery County Public Schools officials decide to close or delay the opening of schools before or after a weather event?

After the Dec. 8 winter storm, there were parents asking questions about that process on various social media sites when MCPS Spokesperson Dana Tofig tweeted out that a final decision would be made by 5 a.m. on Dec. 9. That frustrated some parents who posted on MyMCMedia’s Facebook page that MCPS waits too long to make a decision.

The final call was actually posted on Dec. 9 at 4:32 a.m. by MCPS officials.

“The final decision rests with the superintendent,” said Tofig in an email. “He gets a recommendation from our chief operating officer, who gets information from staff that fans out across the county to check the condition of roads and schools.”

Tofig said officials also get information from the county and neighboring counties (because many MCPS staff members do not live in Montgomery County) about the conditions of the roads. He said they also look at the most recent forecasts to figure out what the conditions will be like for the rest of the day.

“Our preference is always to have school, but we must consider the safety of our students and staff in making the final decision and it’s important to have the most recent information when making that decision,” he said.

So with snow in the forecast overnight and tomorrow morning, you may be wondering about the status of school on Dec. 10.

“We will follow the same protocols with tomorrow’s weather,” Tofig said. “We will only announce closings further in advance if it is a slam dunk call.”

That has happened in the past. For example, Tofig said when Hurricane Sandy hit the area, MCPS closed for two days and announced it on Sunday. “We knew there would be widespread damage and power outages. In 2010, when we had back to back blizzards, we closed for the week and announced that in advance.”

As for tomorrow, Tofig stressed that decision will be made by 5 a.m. on Dec. 10 if not before.

“We encourage people to sign up for MCPS QuickNotes, Alert MCPS and Twitter so they can get the information as quickly as possible,” he said.

MCPS emergency information sources can be found here:

Sonya Burke

About Sonya Burke

Sonya Burke is the Multimedia Manager at Montgomery Community Media (MCM). You can email story ideas at or reach her on Twitter @SonyaNBurke.


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